We are now into the third year of our new trail pass program. I felt compelled to write this note after some recent conversations I have had with snowmobilers that I sure feel don’t understand the needs our program had or the reasoning behind that legislation.
In addition to your snowmobile registration, all snowmobilers are required to purchase an annual trail pass. Out of State riders are required to purchase a $50 pass obtained through the DNR. All Wisconsin riders are required to purchase an annual pass for $30 each, also available through the DNR. All current AWSC club members are eligible to purchase discounted trail passes for machines currently registered in their name through the AWSC for $10 each.
There were two main reasons for the legislation; First, to increase needed funding for our program. Many forget that in 2014, there were absolutely no program funds for any projects because our fund was depleted. Also forgotten by some was the horrible pro-rate that our organizations faced in receiving supplemental funds applied for in high-use areas. We also needed an incentive for members to join our clubs. Many still don’t understand that Wisconsin’s snowmobile trail system is provided and maintained in the form we know today, by our AWSC volunteer member clubs.
Both major goals of the trail pass legislation are taking place . . . .Our AWSC membership went from a low of around 24,000 family members a few years ago, to over 40,000 family members at present. Two years ago, in its first full season, we added approximately $2.3 million dollars to our fund. This past season, we added approximately $2.5 million dollars to it. That has been around a 23% increase! Many clubs that have put forth an effort to obtain, communicate and involve their membership have also seen increased participation. As a matter of fact, I have received additional help on my section of trail because of it.
Because of those additional dollars added to our fund received from the trail pass program, A provision in the 2017-2018 State Budget raised our base trail aids ( which our clubs can apply for) from $250 a mile on funded trails to $300 a mile, and raise our base grooming amount from $150 to $200 a mile of that amount. These rates have not been raised for nearly 20 years. It also removed the sunset on our trail pass program, so that we can continue to provide our volunteer clubs this financial help.
Also understand that all revenue collected from snowmobile registrations, annual trail passes and out of state user sticker fees (minus 75 cents apiece for printing and distribution) are deposited into our Segregated Snowmobile Trail Aids Fund. We also receive into that segregated fund the fuel tax revenues on 50 gallons of gas per registered snowmobile in our state along with an additional 55% of that figure ( in consideration of out-of-state users) as well. This fund is how the clubs get reimbursed for trail maintenance and grooming. It is also how projects and grants are awarded to clubs and county alliances that include replacing and repairing bridges and trails on our self –funded trail system. We hope to fund more of those club-provided public snowmobile trails in the future as well. These funds truly go to our clubs and trails! While the fund is administered by the DNR, only a very small portion of the money in that segregated fund goes to administration or enforcement!
There are some rules that must be followed to receive a discounted pass. A family membership is defined as a legally married couple and children under the age of 19 years old and must be paid and current with the AWSC office. This group DOES NOT include significant others, siblings, friends and neighbors. To receive your discounted pass, you need to provide the following; Your registration number, which needs to be current and the machine needs to be registered in the member’s name. You will also need your current AWSC member number. The club you join must meet regularly, be in good standing with the AWSC, and have a minimum of 10 members. To obtain your discounted passes, you can apply on line with a valid credit card or you can print out and send an application with funds to the AWSC Office. The stickers are then sent out by the DNR Vendor. Please note that the AWSC Office does stock stickers at the office.
All need to understand the importance of joining or renewing your club membership with enough time to you receive your membership number and being able to apply and receive for your passes before you ride. It can up to a week to 10 days to process a membership during the height of the season. You then will have to be able to provide a copy of your receipt to officials if stopped, instead of having the sticker on your sled. It is also critical that your local club sends in your dues promptly to the AWSC when you sign or renew your membership so we have electronic record of it to provide your member number. I cannot believe the number of riders that think they can join a club one day and have passes to ride the next day.
Yeh, there have been a few bumps in the road with the new trail pass program… BUT….The bottom line is, The trail system in Wisconsin you ride on and the clubs you belong to are receiving some pretty substantial gains by having to purchase that 3”x3” sticker and slapping on your sled…..
Think about it…
Thanks tro all!
Executive Director-Dane County
AWSC Legislative Committee Chair
Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs
7353 Springhelt Drive
Dane, WI 53529