MALTA, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York State Parks Department says there was a significant increase in snowmobile accidents during the 2016-2017 season.
Now, the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department is taking matters into their own hands.
The department says speed is the leading cause of those accidents and with more snowmobiles on the Zim Smith Trail this season, they are beefing up patrols to keep residents safe.
“We receive phone calls from residents of snowmobiles operating at a high rate of speed on these trails,” Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said.
The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department is well equipped to address those complaints and enforce the rules of the road, or the trail as it may be.
“We just took the special training which is a week long course. Since then, we’ve had the sleds out probably three or four times and we plan on having them or a couple times a week,” Brent Dupras, Specialized Units Sergeant of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, said. “The Sheriff wants us out there checking for safety and registration compliance.”
On Wednesday, they let me come along as they patrolled the Zim Smith Trail, a popular snowmobile spot the department is keeping an extra close eye on this season.
“This trail here, a lot of it is a straight away. It’s posted 25 and that’s the speed limit and residents are complaining about the speed through here,” Sergeant Dupras said.
Those complaints are especially concerning since many pedestrians and dog walkers also enjoy the trail.
“I’m just taking my daily walk. I go about three miles a day here, sometimes longer. Right after it snows, I usually don’t because that’s when the snowmobiles come out,” Martin Wylde, a Ballston Spa resident, said.
That’s why the increased patrols are necessary. The sheriff’s department says they don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun, they just want to keep it safe for everyone, including pedestrians like Martin.
“It’s not a secret. It’s not like we’re hiding in the bushes. We’re telling you we’re going to be out there doing this. Please be compliant. That’s all we’re looking for is people to be safe and have fun. We’re gonna have fun today,” Dupras said.
We had fun, clocking the radar and learning all the tips and tricks the department says can keep you safe on the trails whether you’re snowmobiling or not.
“Just be aware. If you can hear a snowmobile just get off to the side and if they see somebody acting in a reckless manner, just let our agency know and we’ll be down here to enforce it,” Sheriff Zurlo said.
The department says they have been patrolling for as long as 12 hours per day. You can expect to see them as long as there’s snow on the ground.