A slew of snowmobiles has invaded Dane County's winter wonderland, but not all of those riders are following the rules.
Duane Meyers, president of the Dane County Council of Snowmobile Clubs, says he’s received more complaints this year than ever before.
"The trails are meant to ride on," Meyers said. "It's when we get off of the trails that we have the issues."
Meyers said the vast majority of Dane County trails are on private land. Club liaisons have to get landowners’ permission every year. Already this season, a landowner in Mount Vernon shut off his land from snowmobilers, and volunteers had to reroute the system around his property.
"The problem is, if we can't honor their request, they can tell us not to come back next year," Meyers said.
With only 500 miles of trails open in Dane County, Meyers said it's tough to close any of them off to snowmobilers without making the trip more difficult and filled with many more detours.
"In Dane County, it's difficult because you've got that big lake right in the middle, and if you take a chunk to get around the backside," Meyers said. "I mean, you could add hours to somebody's ride."
A number of trails are on farm land. Meyers said driving off of the marked trails and cutting corners can kill crops under the snow.
"What happens is when the snowmobile goes over that, they actually compact that," Meyers explained, "and it retards the growth because that compaction takes longer to melt than it would in a normal field. What it does is slows the growth down, so their first yield of alfalfa or winter wheat is harvested fairly early. That actually hurts that quite a bit."
Meyers said speed is also a concern out on the trails. He reminds riders that a lot of families are out and may have a slower pace than others, so he urges people to be respectful. Meyers also said the law sets the nighttime speed limit at 55 miles per hour.
Meyers added that staying on your side of the trails is important, especially when some turns and trails through wooded areas are more narrow than usual. He also pointed out riders need to use caution crossing intersections and driving anywhere near cars or trains.
Check here for more information on open trails.