April 18, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 91

Public must respect access to private land

To the Editor:

One of the many things that I love about Gogebic County is the great trail system we have for outdoor enthusiasts.

Although we are blessed with thousands of acres of public lands in our county, many of the trails rely on the generosity of private landowners in order to provide trail continuity. I find myself on two sides of this very important issue and privilege: public access to private property.

1. I am a landowner in Wakefield. I have elected to grant access to the Gogebic Range Trail Authority for their snowmobile trail from November through March. The trail traverses a beautiful stretch of my property, approximately half a mile through the woods along the Little Black River.

I am not a snowmobiler. However, I have made the trail available to the public for snowmobiling due to my love for the land and a willingness to share it with others.

Unfortunately, a persistent group of snowmobilers has regularly abused the privilege. Each winter, snowmobilers have left the trail and ridden over fields, right past my cabin and over newly planted saplings. The offensiveness of tracking all over someone’s private property is obvious. The evidence of the affront lingers for weeks until covered by major snowfalls or spring snowmelt.

I have not yet decided what I will do next winter regarding granting trail access, however I must admit that my patience is wearing thin.

2. On the other side, I have been the beneficiary of trails in Gogebic County, especially the Wolverine Cross Country Ski Trails. This beautiful trail system is made possible by the generosity of private landowners who have granted access to the Wolverine Ski Club for the trail.

I know that the clubs and trail authorities work hard to accommodate private landowners. They cannot be in all places at all times, nor can they fully understand the issues that are important to individual landowners.

As individuals, we can have some impact by taking down licenses or registrations and reporting abuses. We can confront people who are leaving the trails and jeopardizing everyone’s access.

Finally, I hope that people using our trail systems will consider the effects of their actions on private landowners and other trail users. Treat private landowners and private property with respect so that landowners will continue to share their land with the public.

Harry Butler

Wakefield