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Dickinson ordinance lays out rules for snowmobile use

Dickinson has an entire section of its city ordinance dedicated to the rules around operating snowmobiles. Snowmobiles may not be operated on any road, street or highway used for cars except in emergency situations: when travel by other means is ...

Snowmobiles have been used in snow emergencies to assist people in previous storms by bringing medication and supplies to those in need. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press
Snowmobiles have been used in snow emergencies to assist people in previous storms by bringing medication and supplies to those in need. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press

Dickinson has an entire section of its city ordinance dedicated to the rules around operating snowmobiles.

Snowmobiles may not be operated on any road, street or highway used for cars except in emergency situations: when travel by other means is impossible, when a snowmobile event has been prearranged, on streets not meant for winter travel and when the operator travels from their home to the city's limits on the most direct route possible, according to the ordinance. An operator of a snowmobile must also be at least 14 years old.

This section of the ordinance was installed before City Administrator Shawn Kessel began working for the city, so at least eight years ago, he said. Since that time, he does not recall working on amending that section of the ordinance with the city commissioners.

During this week's snowstorm, he saw just one snowmobile on the roads, but there was a winter a few years ago when snowmobiles became an integral part of rescue efforts, he said.

"Some people couldn't get out of their homes for quite some time, so snowmobiles were the way to deliver medicine to them and other things that they needed on a lifesaving basis," Kessel said. "It's kind of an interesting dichotomy in that we can use them to our advantage in times of difficult snowfalls, but they also can be difficult when they try to merge with traffic."

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Dennis Johnson, Dickinson's longest-standing mayor, said that, though he did not specifically remember working on the ordinance, there was a winter where the city fell victim to at least two snowstorms occurring close enough together that the snow from the first storm was not fully cleared before the second one rolled in.

Snowmobiles were used from the private sector - primarily from community members - who helped deliver prescription medicine and other supplies to those in need who could not get out on the roads, he said.

"When you get into a snow emergency like that, it's tough enough to get around if you have, say a big four-wheel drive, and many people don't," Johnson said. "And you have an elderly population that can't shovel their driveway to get a vehicle out even if the roads are passable. I'm sure they played a valuable service there during those heavy snowfalls."

Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger also recalled the snowmobiles being used to deliver medications. His department used a utility task vehicle, or UTV, for a day or two in one such storm in order to reach people until the road conditions improved, he said. The police have agreements with the Public Works Department to coordinate snowplows if needed, but they still try to maintain a working relationship with alternative terrain vehicle and UTV dealers in the city just in case.

"We live in North Dakota," Kessel said. "We're going to have cold weather, and we're going to have snow. I think it's wonderful that people want to enjoy those aspects of North Dakota that you just can't get in Arizona or Texas or wherever else. They're a great avenue for people to play with and to have fun with. Just be safe and take the quickest route into your home and the quickest route out and just be safe while you're doing it."

According to the ordinance, snowmobiles may not be operated:

• At a rate exceeding the given circumstances, in a reckless or dangerous manner which could endanger a person or property.

• Under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or habit-forming drugs.

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• Without a lighted head lamp and tail lamp.

• In a tree nursery or planting area where operation may harm the plants.

• Without a working muffler connected to the exhaust system.

• At a speed greater than 10 miles per hour in any place within the city's limits.

• Snowmobiles may only tow a sled, skid or any other vehicle if connected with a swivel and secure hitch.

• Passing another working snowmobile while on a snowmobile within city limits is also prohibited nor may they drive abreast.

• Operators must have a valid, current North Dakota driver's license or have such a licensed driver on the machine accompanying another driver.

• More than two people on the machine is prohibited.

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• They must be operated between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Monday. On Friday and Saturday they may be operated until 11 p.m.

• Drivers and passengers may also not carry a strung bow nor loaded firearm.

See the ordinance for the complete list of rules and regulations.

Snowmobiles may not be used on city roads except in emergency situations where no other means of travel are possible, according to the city's ordinance. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press
Snowmobiles may not be used on city roads except in emergency situations where no other means of travel are possible, according to the city's ordinance. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press

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