Snowmobile use in Observatory Park expanded without board approval

Chagrin Valley Times

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 11:45 pm


The Geauga Park District appears to be going full throttle in allowing snowmobiles in one county park and all it took was a bumper sticker.

A posting on the park district’s website this week introduced snowmobiling in Observatory Park in Montville Township during the winter season and offered a link for a snowmobile permit.

“Snowmobiling will be allowed only in Observatory Park, which is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., by permit only, on trails marked with snowmobiling signage,” the posting states.

The Geauga Park District Board of Commissioners had approved by a 2-1 vote in January 2016 to allow a trial run for snowmobiles at the park. The trial run was hampered by a lack of snow, which saw limited use.

Park Executive Director John Oros reported no problems in that trial run, although residents complained that the snowmobiles had torn up the trails.

While the trial run required a vote of the park board, no such vote was taken on an expansion of the program that breaks with a policy of not allowing motorized vehicles in the park. Rules and regulations listed on the park district’s website state, “No person shall operate within the park any type of all-terrain vehicle (ATV), snowmobile, dirt bike, go-cart, motorized vehicle or similar device.”

Park board member Richard Gertz, who previously voted against allowing snowmobiles, said Monday he was unaware that the latest program was in place. “I’ll probably be bringing that up at the Tuesday’s (Dec. 13) meeting,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that is cast in stone.”

He said he could not comment on the posting because he had not seen it.

Mr. Oros did not respond to a call for comment.

While snowmobiling will be allowed, other park users will be prohibited from using the park while snowmobiles are in use, according to the website.

“To ensure safety for all, other activities will be excluded on these trails,” the website states. “However, with 19 open parks and 77 trails, totaling more than 64 miles, Geauga Park District still offers something for everyone in terms of winter activities, including free snowshoe borrowing at the West Woods, cross country skiing, winter hiking and the West Woods’ Bird in the Hand Feeding Station.”

Mr. Oros is quoted as saying 40 permits were issued last year at Observatory Park, which was the first year for this activity in the parks.

The posting states that the activity is part of a new partnership between the park district and the Ohio State Snowmobiling Association. He said the organization will be “tracking” park trails with their snowmobiles and grooming equipment. “The presence of these tracks will let park patrons know conditions are right for snowmobiling,” the posting states.

Mr. Oros wrote that a bumper sticker convinced him snowmobiling is a good idea.

“At a recent meeting with members of the OSSA, I noticed a bumper sticker, which read ‘Snowmobilers are Environmentalists, Too,’” Mr. Oros is quoted as saying in the post. “When I inquired with the snowmobile community as to what they meant by that, they explained their passion for protecting the rural landscape.”

A following quotation on the posting, offers no attribution to its author. “Without parks and rural areas, we don’t have trails,” it states. “The OSSA is thankful to Geauga Park District for starting a snowmobile program in 2016, and we are grateful to be able to bring a new audience of people out this winter to enjoy Observatory Park.”

The posting concludes by noting those 10 and older can attend a free snowmobile safety class, presented by OSSA, Jan. 8, 2017 from noon to 4 p.m. at Observatory Park. The posting also provides a link to the snowmobile club for those interested in registering.

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