Columbus officials are considering limiting the use of snowmobiles in the city due to an inadequate trail system.
The city council discussed repealing an amendment to an ordinance allowing snowmobile use at the committee of the whole meeting Oct. 3 at city hall. A change in the ordinance would require local snowmobile clubs to have trails set by March to allow the city to prepare for the following winter.
Mayor Michael Thom said the city does not have a marked snowmobile route and is waiting to hear from local groups to discuss the situation. Thom encouraged snowmobile clubs to form a trail system and present it to the council next March.
“If we don’t take action to repeal this ordinance in its entirety, we’re going to have what happened when this issue was on the front page of the newspaper last winter and the trail was closed at that time,” Thom said. “I personally don’t want to see that happen again this year. I suggest bringing this ordinance to the next council meeting (Oct. 17) for a full repeal until the clubs come back with a different trail plan for the future.”
Council members said they are in favor of a full repeal because the city has been dealing with the issue for a few years. According to city officials, riders have been taking advantage of a poor trail system and riding along sidewalks and other residential areas.
“Especially after the events of last year,” said Alderman Andy Traxler. “I had people riding down the sidewalks in my neighborhood, which was completely uncalled for and damaging to multiple properties. I don’t see any way to move forward without starting over from scratch.”
Alderman Trina Reid said she is saddened by the possible repeal, but believes it is necessary until a better route is established.
Thom said the ordinance could take special circumstances into consideration, such as right of access to private property.
“I don’t know that there is anything in this ordinance we need to preserve that is going to help us in any way,” Thom said.
The change could put the clamps on snowmobile riding in the city but the repeal won’t be made official until the next council meeting Oct. 17. Access to gas stations could also be limited.
“If we repeal this, the clubs could come back in March and we can start the conversation all over again,” Traxler said. “We can talk about access to certain gas stations in town, but they need to come up with a plan and present it to us at any time.”
Alderman Matt Kenney said the conversation could begin with gas station access and proceed from there. On Wednesday, Kenney said a large group of snowmobilers from the area are likely to attend the next council meeting to voice their opposition.