Conservation officers conduct stepped-up patrols over I-500 race weekend in Chippewa County

On Friday and Saturday, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers ran patrols over hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, making contacts with nearly 800 sledders over the 54th-annual running of the International 500 snowmobile race in Sault Ste. Marie.

For many years, conservation officers have taken advantage of the race running as great opportunity to make contacts with hundreds of snowmobilers attracted to the area for the popular track race.

“Overall, activity on the trails in Chippewa County was way up from past years, as were the number of violations encountered,” DNR District 2 Law Supervisor Eugene “Skip” Hagy told EUP News. “The lack of snow in the Lower Peninsula compared to the recent cold spell with ample snowfall in the Upper Peninsula likely contributed to what was likely the busiest I-500 weekend we have ever experienced on the trails”

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers talk with snowmobilers at a trail stop in Chippewa County.

The stepped-up patrols began Friday, Feb. 3 and continued through Saturday night, as conservation officers patrolled over 660 miles and contacted a total of 782 snowmobilers.

Eighty-seven tickets and 178 verbal warnings were issued for various violations ranging from careless operation of a snowmobile, operating an unregistered snowmobile and failure to properly display registration decals to no trail permits, failure to attach trail permits and off-road vehicle violations, all of which were discovered on the surrounding trail system.

Trail conditions were ideal, however, extremely busy.

Officers encountered many out-of-state residents who traveled from Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Wyoming and Ontario.

“Many positive comments were received regarding the officers’ presence on the trails over the weekend’s events,” Hagy said. “Word travels fast when officers are working the trails and many riders drive a little more responsibly when they know officers are in the area.”

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers stop for a photo while on trails patrol in Chippewa County over the weekend.

During the patrols, conservation officers concentrated their attention to ensuring the safety of everyone who was out enjoying the trails by enforcing tenets of the Ride Right safety campaign.

The campaign reminds riders to ride on the right-hand side of the trail, ride sober and within one’s capabilities.

“People blowing through stops signs we’re one of the most frequent violations encountered,” Hagy told us. “This is where a lot of accidents happen. Many who were stopped said they never even saw the stop sign, likely because of how fast they were driving. They were just lucky no one else was going through the intersection at the same time.”

There were no major incidents reported on the surrounding trails during the enhanced weekend patrols.

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.

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