B y Krystle S. Morey
Mettowee Off Road Extreme Park was set to trade in its mud for snow – but Mother Nature didn’t want to cooperate.
Next weekend the park planned to welcome snowmobilers to test their sleds on its off-road playground, which is usually intended for Jeeps and four-wheelers. Snowmobile races, scheduled for Feb. 4, were canceled because of “lack of weather,” said event organizer Dick Rousseau.
Rousseau saw the writing on the wall last week, commenting: “It’s looking like I am going to end up washing this thing out, looking at the weather,” he said. “We haven’t had any snow to even push around.”
Mettowee made the call to cancel the snowmobile event last Friday. It would have been its first Snowmobile Drag Race Event. Higher temperatures and lack of snowfall pushed the event’s debut off until next year.
“Everybody’s really frustrated because it was going to be a really big thing,” Rousseau said. “We even had people from Canada planning to come down for it.”
Each of the park’s events draws hundreds of racers and spectators. Mettowee teamed up with the Granville Border Riders snowmobile club to host the snowmobile event, to help spread the word.
Nicknamed the “mud-boggers” by locals, the Mettowee Off Road Extreme Park has taken flak from some, including town officials and nearby neighbors.
The park, located at 607 County Route 12 on the Whitehall-Granville town line, has been criticized for mud on the roads, excessive noise and camping, which is illegal in Granville.
Jennifer Powell, who lives on County Route 12 near the park, said she was nervous about Mettowee’s snowmobile event next month. During the boggers’ regular mud events, Powell said she can hear the loud exhausts and roaring engines from her living room. It’s also not unusual, she said, for racers to park their vehicles on her lawn. She’s was unsure of what to expect when the snowmobilers arrive with their trailers.
Powell spoke about her concern during public session at a town board meeting this month. “This is the first that they have done this kind of event, so who knows. We just know the history of what the other types of events lead to,” she said.
She added: “It might not snow, so we might not have an issue.”
Powell has been an advocate for residents who are often disturbed by the mud-boggers’ operations, speaking out at town meetings and even leading the efforts on a petition, which claimed “the surrounding homeowners’ quality of life has been negatively impacted.”
Granville Supervisor Matt Hicks said from the town’s standpoint, the only law that was being violated at mud-bogging events was the campground ordinance.
Hicks said the town has not had any conversations with Mettowee or the Border Riders about the Feb. 4 event.
“Primarily, from our standpoint, we’ve always dealt with the camping issue, because that is in direct violation of our town law,” Hicks said at a town board meeting. “If there’s no camping – and based on the information that I have seen, that it’s a one-day event with no camping – everything would revert back to the Department of Health … or the Sheriff’s department if there’s an issue on the road or if there’s a criminal complaint.”
“Don’t let me get too out-of-bounds here, Mike,” Hicks said to Granville’s attorney Mike Catalfimo during his response to Powell.
Town board member Matt Rathbun rebutted, “So, our thought is that we will wait until there’s a problem, then we’ll address it at the next meeting?” He mentioned parking as a public safety issue.
“I agree,” Hicks said, “but it’s county public safety.”
“It’s our town, so we’re here to provide public safety,” Rathbun said.
Hicks said he’ll “put the county public safety organization on notice” for the event.
Powell poked the board on what to do if county authorities do not respond: “When I have called them in the past, they say, ‘Call your code enforcer. We can’t do anything. Your code enforcer has to go out and do something.’”
Hicks advised Powell and other town residents: “If there is a nuisance issue, call me and I will call the Sheriff’s Department to see if I can have them at least check it out.”
The town board has met with the planning board about developing site plan review in Granville, which Hicks said would address some of the land use and activity concerns with zoning laws.
Powell asked Hicks for an update on developing site plan review in Granville at the board’s Jan. 12 meeting.
“There has not been any (further discussion) at this point,” Hicks said.
On Feb. 4, Mettowee was planning to have several snowmobile races with prizes including gift certificates, trophies and cash, but it’ll hold off until the weather cooperates.
“We’re looking into snow guns for next year,” Rousseau said.