By Patrick Fanelli, firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: February 23, 2009
For much of the winter, the DMV office in Mayville was kept open on Saturdays since business owners are no longer allowed to issue temporary registrations to riders. There was widespread concern that snowmobile riders would be driven out of the county because they would have to go out of their way and travel all the way to Mayville to get their sleds registered for the first time.
According to Sandy Sopak, Chautauqua County clerk, registrations didn't drop; in fact, there was an increase in November, December and January over the same period last winter.
''There was a lot of discussion, fear and anger over the new procedures handed down by the state DMV, and we did make some local changes to try to accommodate as many snowmobilers as possible, but in the end, we processed more registrations and brought more riders through our trails and businesses than we did last year,'' Mrs. Sopak said. ''Our decision to open the Mayville DMV office on Saturdays during the season seemed to help ease the burden of the new procedures.''
According to figures released this week by the county, nearly 4,300 sleds were registered in Chautauqua County the first three months of the season, representing an increase of 600, or 16 percent, over the same period last winter.
Steve Smith, Chautauqua County Federation of Snowmobile Clubs president, credits the surge with the phenomenal snowmobile weather this season that has blanketed the region in much more snow than the last few years, which have been somewhat disappointing for the sport.
''I feel they were busier,'' Smith said, referring to the county's 600 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. ''I think it was the early snowfall, and just the great conditions we offer riders in Chautauqua County.''
Smith does feel, though, the number of registrations could have been a little higher if riders could have registered at businesses along the trails like they could in previous years. That practice was banned this season by the state DMV.
County Executive Greg Edwards said he was concerned the new DMV regulations would hurt the region's snowmobile industry, which infuses county businesses with much-needed money in the winter months.
''Our businesses depend on the tourism dollars brought in by out-of-state snowmobilers during the winter, and most have invested their own money in promoting this sport,'' Edwards said. ''I was concerned the new policy would keep riders away from the hundreds of miles of scenic trails that wind throughout our county, and reduce the revenue their riders deliver to our county.''
Figures comparing this year's registrations to other seasons with a comparable amount of snowfall were not immediately available.
According to Edwards, he and other county officials are fighting to make Chautauqua County as friendly as it can be for business owners, consumers and visitors.
''We don't want to discourage people from coming here from other states. Unfortunately, sometimes state requirements make us less attractive to consumers,'' Edwards said. ''In this case, our County Clerk Sandy Sopak was able to respond to the challenge and find a way to accommodate our visitors so they could enjoy all Chautauqua County has to offer.''