by Bob Grawey
After snowmobile activity was banned in his neighborhood by the city of Otsego in 2005, Pat Hilden decided it was time he got involved.
An avid snowmobile enthusiast, Hilden not only persuaded Otsego officials to reconsider the ban in his Lin Bar Estates neighborhood, but word got out that he was starting a snowmobile club as well.
Today membership stands at 68 households and includes members from as far away as Coon Rapids.
One of the things Hilden has been able to establish is responsibility and respect among the club’s membership and activities in the community.
In December, Hilden, who is also the club president, says the River Riders hosted a day of training for youth.
Fifty youth showed up to learn about how to safely and responsibly drive a snowmobile.
Club members provide the role models as they also take part in managing snowmobile trails.
Hilden says some members are trained to manage and groom the trails in conjunction with Wright County, which oversees them.
The club president is also point man for the club and Otsego in handling any complaints from the community concerning snowmobile activity.
Complaints are minimal, but one resident recently complained about club members leaving too much snow on his driveway. Snow is added at the ends of driveways, Hilden explains, so snowmobiles will not chew up the driveway’s surface.
In this case, too much snow had been added, so club members went to the residence and removed the excess snow.
Club members work with Otsego, too, in maintaining signage along snowmobile routes, and letting the city know where signage is needed.
At the Jan. 24 Otsego City Council meeting, a club representative told council members snowmobile signs on the route along 85th Street were too small.
The council responded to his request for eight larger signs by approving them, with the city covering the cost.
Hilden will also stop non-club members who are not observing snowmobile trail rules, city ordinances or who are not respecting someone’s property.
“I pulled over two sleds that had pretty loud pipes,” Hilden says of a recent stop, “and told them they needed to use the trails. We need to be respectful of people and their property, and respectful of the law.”
The snowmobile club has created approved spur trails, too, as a way to keep snowmobile users off city streets and private property.
To learn more about the Otsego River Riders Snowmobile Club, interested parties can attend the next club meeting at Riverwood National Golf Course Thursday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.