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Snowmobile council plans safety classes

The Pierce County Snowmobile Council's picking up where the sheriff's department left off.

The council will conduct snowmobile safety classes beginning next month, according to President Brian Pieper.

"As a council, we decided to take this on because Officer Brad Verges is no longer available (to organize the classes)," Pieper said Friday. Preparations began in the past month, he added.

The council will operate the classes essentially the same as the sheriff's department has in the past, he said. Members have recruited three people who've already been certified to teach the classes. Instructors must complete two entire safety classes successfully in order to teach.

"If anyone is interested in becoming an instructor, they're invited to come to a combination of any two of the three classes were planning," he said, citing a need for more instructors.

Anyone is welcome to attend a course, but a student must be at least 11-years-old to receive a certificate, information from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shared by Pieper states. Instructors must stress to those students who haven't reached age 12 they may not use their certificate and operate alone until they turn 12. There's no maximum age, and parents and adults are also encouraged to enroll and participate.

The course fee is $10, which covers all necessary materials. A parent must attend the first session to complete the registration.

Advance registration is requested. Pieper said specifics about the council's classes are posted on the DNR's web site, , and registration can be done there.

The schedule for the council's three classes shows:

--Ellsworth, Instructor Greg Place, 273-3275, Ellsworth Middle School, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 22, Wednesday, Jan. 24, Thursday, Jan. 25, Tuesday, Jan. 30, and Thursday, Feb. 1, with a practical on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 8 a.m. (weather permitting).

--Prescott, Instructor Tom Lubich, 262-5807, Prescott High School, Room 1, 6 to 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 8, Tuesday, Jan. 9, Thursday, Jan. 11, Tuesday, Jan. 16, and Thursday, Jan. 18, with a practical on Saturday, Jan. 20, at a time to be determined (weather permitting).

--River Falls, Instructors Al Dusek, 426-0799, Howard Miller, 425-6461, Joe Schorr, 425-0409, and Jerry Van Heukelom, 425-7042, Meyer Middle School, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 4, Tuesday, Jan. 9, Thursday, Jan. 11, Saturday, Jan. 13 (8:30-noon), Tuesday, Jan. 16, and Thursday, Jan. 18, with a practical on Saturday, Jan. 20, at a time to be determined (weather permitting).

Classes will cover snowmobile safety topics such as pre-ride inspections, basic riding skills, safety features, protective gear, rules and regulations, ethics, responsibility and handling outdoor emergencies, the DNR information states. Persons successfully completing the course will receive a snowmobile safety graduate certificate and a distinctive embroidered emblem. Young students certified will be able to operate a snowmobile without a parent or guardian present at 12-years-old.

Students with special needs must contact the instructor at least two weeks in advance of the course to request special accommodations.

The trail ahead

Pieper reminds snowmobilers the only official announcement of trail openings and closings in Pierce County is through the trail hotline at 639-6311. Signs indicating trails "open" or "closed" which are posted around the county aren't official. As of last week, there was no snow on the ground and very little had fallen so far this season, so the trails were closed.

The council has elected new officers, Pieper said. Besides himself as president, Lubich is vice president, LaVern Rosenberg is treasurer and Nate Dodge is secretary.

Pieper has also been named groomer coordinator, he said. He's taking applications for groomer drivers at 273-5203.

Appreciation goes to the cooperating landowners and volunteers for making snowmobiling in Pierce County possible, he said.