Snowmobile Trail Funding
Snowmobilers Pay for Trails
All funding for snowmobile Grant-in-Aid trails comes out of the snowmobiler's pocket. In other words, we pay our own way. There are three funding mechanisms for trails. First, the registration fees that you pay on your snowmobile; second, the trail pass fees paid by out of state snowmobilers that come to Minnesota to enjoy our winter recreation opportunities; and third, the tax you pay to purchase gasoline for your sled supports our trails.
Every time a snowmobiler buys gasoline for his/her snowmobile in our state, the $.25 per gallon Minnesota gas tax that is paid at the pump, goes into the snowmobile dedicated account. The gas tax paid at the pump is a user fee. If we put the gasoline in our motor vehicle, the gas tax goes to roads. If we put the gasoline in our boats, the gas tax goes to public lake accesses. Farmers are able to purchase gasoline for their non-road farm equipment without paying the gas tax. Based on studies done by the legislature, the legislature has determined that 1% of the state’s annually collected unrefunded gas tax revenues are attributed to snowmobile gas purchases.
The amount appropriated by the legislature to fund the snowmobile program for FYE 6/30/13 and 6/30/14 is $14.6 million. These funds are available from the gas tax, snowmobile registration and trail permit receipts. $7.4 million is paid to groom and maintain approximately 21,372 miles of trails through the grants-in-aid program and the balance goes to the Department of Natural Resources for program administration, enforcement and grooming and maintenance of approximately 660 miles of state snowmobile trails. No general fund dollars pay for the snowmobile program.
Grants-in-aid funds are paid to a local unit of government based on the number of miles in a trail system. In many cases, the local unit of government contracts with a local non-profit corporation, generally a snowmobile club, to do the trail maintenance and grooming. The funds pay for equipment purchase and rental, fuel, culverts, bridges, signage, trail maps and insurance necessary to do the trail work. Club members volunteer their time and often hold fund raisers to help pay for the work on the trails which they are providing to the general public.
In January of 2003, a Legislative Audit Report on State Funded Trails for Motorized Recreation was presented and found ... “snowmobiles have gained a level of acceptance in Minnesota and contributed millions of tourism dollars to the state’s economy.” The oversight concerns expressed in the 2003 audit on the snowmobile program have been addressed in program changes. Each year the Department of Natural Resources conducts program reviews of the grant recipients. All grants reviewed are being managed in accordance with the program requirements.
Snowmobiling is important to Minnesota’s economy. Minnesota’s snowmobile trail system is the backbone of winter tourism in the state. With a snowmobile trail system budget of $13.6 million, a conservative $200 million is generated in tourism dollars. A recently completed economic impact study reports the snowmobile effect on Minnesota includes 8,000 jobs with wages and salaries of $245 million; $529 million in gross state product; $1 billion in gross receipts/sales and $56 million in state and local tax revenues. Snowmobiling is an important industry to Minnesota and the extensive trail system is provided to the public through snowmobile user fees.