New York State Snowmobile Association
Snowmobile Rights and Responsibilities Act
The primary reason for this legislation is to increase club membership and therefore increase participation for trail maintenance.
Over the years clubs have had 2 issues: Lack of finances for trail maintenance and lack of volunteers to perform the trail maintenance.
• Since 2003 we have had 2 fee increases that have helped considerably with the financial situation. Unfortunately this has not addressed the volunteer aspect.
• In 2001 a process was started to allow clubs to gain/attract more members. We looked at the Trail Pass as a means of accomplishing this, but to do this it meant changing the NYS Trespass Laws. At about this time the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association had successfully lobbied for legislation that increased their fees but would give club members a discount. NYSSA adopted this formula.
• A bill was put together that would address many issues facing clubs today. This bill became known as the Snowmobile Rights and Responsibilities Act.
Components: SRRA was first written to address the club membership issue, General Obligations Law and some common sense safety concerns. We found out right away we would not be able to amend the General Obligations Law. The safety measures had to be included to make this bill acceptable and tough to oppose as a legislator. This season with early fatalities that the media reported as speed related, many legislators started introducing language that would impose a state wide speed limit. In the past NYSSA had always been neutral on this, but it was obvious that it would be possible that a stand alone speed limit bill could have passed. Our lobbyists were able to convince the legislators that if they would support SRRA then we would include the speed limit in our bill. We supported this as did the delegates at the 2005 NYSSA Annual Meeting.
Duties of Snowmobile Owners and Operators: This legislation explains some common sense duties for snowmobilers among them: Snowmobiling is a voluntary activity that could be hazardous; make sure your equipment is working properly; obey all rules and regulations.
•Duties of Snowmobile Clubs: Please note these duties do not increase the liability for any club. Basically these are all items that clubs should be doing. They are: Mark the trail; encourage snowmobilers to participate in safety classes; educate your members; and mark trails as whether they are closed or not.
•Mandatory Insurance: Any snowmobile will now be required to be covered by liability insurance if operated of your own property.
•Youthful Operation: The current law allows anyone 10 years old or older to operate a snowmobile on the trail system alone if they hold a safety certificate. Many felt that anyone under the age of 14 should not be riding the trail system without adult supervision. Therefore the minimum age a youth with a safety certificate can ride alone is 14. Youth’s between the age of 10 and 14 can still operate a snowmobile if they are within 500’ of a guardian 18 or older.
•Two-Tier: This is the most important aspect of the legislation. It increases the total fee to $100 UNLESS one member of the household is a club member. If that is the case then every sled registered by that household will only pay $45/snowmobile. In other words if you are already a club member you are not impacted financially in any way by the Two-Tier language in this legislation.
• Speed limit: A maximum 55 MPH speed limit will become law on public trails and lands. This does not include lakes unless posted locally. Think about this for a minute-how often do you see law enforcement on the trail? They are usually at a trailhead checking registration. We see this speed limit as a way of reducing our insurance liability because if someone wraps themselves around a tree at 70mph then this would improve our defense if there is a lawsuit. Speed limits in our neighboring states and Canada are all lower than 55.
• Increased Club Membership: As stated earlier New Hampshire has adopted two-tier and according to their numbers over 90% of snowmobilers in NH now belong to a club. Also according to NH volunteerism has also increased. More snowmobilers now realize that trails just don’t appear out of nowhere. It takes volunteers to build and maintain these trails.
• Safety: With more snowmobilers being aware of issues especially dealing with duties and responsibilities one would hope our trails will become safer.
• Landowners: Through conversations with landowners it is clear landowners prefer only club members use their property to ride on.
• Education: More snowmobilers will know where they can ride and more importantly where they should not be riding.
• Financial: Additional club membership will give clubs additional revenue so perhaps clubs will be able to start upgrading equipment using dues income instead of relying on grants. The additional income will also allow clubs to spend more time maintaining non-funded trails.