2007-02-01 / Front Page

Snowmobile Speed Limit Set at 25 mph on Mackinac Island State Roads

By Karen Gould

A Mackinac Island snowmobile rider and his dog head up Fort Street. A Mackinac Island snowmobile rider and his dog head up Fort Street. An experimental snowmobile speed limit of 25 miles per hour has been established for designated state roads on Mackinac Island. While speed limit signs will not be posted, required permits to operate snowmobiles on park roads will contain the stipulation that riders are not to exceed the 25 mile per hour limit. Mackinac Island State Park commissioners agreed to setting the limit during their January 10 meeting.

"We are trying to find a reasonable speed limit that allows people to get around and that also is safe," Director Phil Porter later said.

Permit holders must sign an agreement "to operate their snowmobiles at a careful and prudent speed for the existing conditions and not to exceed 25 miles per hour in the Mackinac Island State Park."

On city roads, the snowmobilers cannot exceed 20 miles per hour.

The Mackinac Island City Council asked the park to adopt a 20 mile per hour limit, too, but park staff recommended 25 miles per hour because most of the roads open to snowmobiles in the park are less congested than in town, said Mr. Porter.

Three ladies play a game of cards in a quiet corner of the Tea Room in 1936. (Photograph courtesy of Mackinac State Historic Parks) Three ladies play a game of cards in a quiet corner of the Tea Room in 1936. (Photograph courtesy of Mackinac State Historic Parks) The city first asked for the speed limit in January 2005, but at that time, park staff thought state speed limits had already been set for 35 miles per hour. More recently, commissioners learned that no speed limit had been set previously.

"That hastened the need to deal with the situation," said Mr. Porter.

There will be no speed limit signs on park roads, but city and state boundary markers are posted on most main roads, said Mr. Porter.

State permits are free and can be obtained from the state park field office behind Fort Mackinac or at the airport.

The park is working in conjunction with city police to enforce the speed limit.

A free permit is also required to operate a snowmobile in the city and is available at the police department.

No permit is required for day and weekend visitors.

In another matter, Grand Hotel was awarded the concession at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room. The agreement runs through December 31, 2008. Housed in the Officers' Stone Quarters, the restaurant has been in operation since the 1920s and has been operated by Grand Hotel for 18 years.

This postcard of the porch of the Tea Room is estimated to be from the late 1920s. (Postcard courtesy of Mackinac State Historic Parks) This postcard of the porch of the Tea Room is estimated to be from the late 1920s. (Postcard courtesy of Mackinac State Historic Parks) Grand Hotel has "brought additional business to the fort through group sales, evening programs, and the annual Fourth of July picnic," said Mr. Porter.

The new, two-year agreement calls for dinner service to be provided from late June through late August.

For the past nine years, Grand Hotel has been the only business that has submitted a proposal for the concession.

Beginning with the 2009 season, the commission will seek a fiveyear agreement to operate the restaurant.

Mr. Porter said the Mackinac Island Horsemen's Association is discussing possible options with the Chambers family for use of property for an equestrian center. The association asked if state park property could be made available if the group cannot reach an agreement with the family.

Bill Chambers, who attended the meeting, said talks with the association now are focused on safety issues.

Mr. Porter said the commission may want consider assisting the association by cutting new trails, which could direct recreational riders away from high traffic areas on the Island.

At the request of the Horseman's Association and at the direction of commissioners, Mr. Porter agreed to appoint someone from park staff to be on the equestrian center committee.

The latest battle on the war against the fast growing, invasive, and non-native Norway maple trees on Mackinac Island was successful, with the removal of hundreds of the trees on state park land over a threeweek period this fall, said Mr. Porter. Two park employees cut trees that ranged in size from two inches to two feet in diameter. Now an area that runs north of the Mackinac Island Airport to the water's edge is free of the trees. The men also worked south along Harrison Road and Annex Road on state park land.

"This is really significant because if they were allowed to grow free in that area, we would have gone past where we could control them," said Mr. Porter.

"There is much more work that can be done," he added.

A $2,389.43 grant from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation provided the funds for the project.

In another project, asbestos ceiling tiles and floor tiles were replaced at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room and the Scout Barracks, said Mr. Porter. Work was completed and both areas are ready for the 2007 season.

Commissioners approved a 20- year lease renewal for East Bluff cottage owners Thomas and Kathleen Lewand of Birmingham. The lease was renewed for $2,882 a year with annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index or five percent, whichever is lower.

The park commission next meets Wednesday, March 28, in Lansing. The meeting will take place in the fifth floor boardroom of the Michigan Historical Center and Library, at 702 West Kalamazoo Street.

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