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      Snowmobilers asked to stay on trails

      With all of the recent snowfall in the Keweenaw, many locals and visitors are gassing up their snowmobiles and heading out onto the trails. The Coast Guard wants to make sure that visiting snowmobilers are very cautious and avoid shortcuts like crossing over the Portage Canal. "The Coast Guard, the Houghton County Sheriffs Department, Houghton Police Department, Hancock Police Department, and Keweenaw Convention Visitors Bureau are strongly recommending that snowmobilers stay on the trails and minimize their time over the ice," said Chris St. Martin, Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate. Senior Chief St. Martin showed me the shortcut some choose to take from the Houghton City Waterfront Park to Hancock, and some recent snowmobile tracks could be seen on the ice. Behind me is a drainage pipe that you can typically see emptying into the Portage Canal, and the circulating water tends to make the ice unstable and unsafe. Vegetation, along with a swift current, can also make for a deadly combination, and even though the ice may look safe, officials say it's not. The Coast Guard says the human body can lose voluntary muscle movement in 15 minutes or less, making it almost impossible to remain afloat if submerged in the icy water. After rescue, the process of getting the snowmobile out of the water can be costly. "Once the snowmobile is in the lake, the owner will contact me and then I'll contact my safety diver and we'll survey the scene and call a tow truck. Then we'll take a cable out to the hole and make the dive," said Lundy Castro, owner of Lundyâ??s Underwater Scuba. The gas and oil from the emerged snowmobile can pollute the water, and the DNR can legally fine the owner up to $500 a day if the snowmobile is not removed. Officials say staying on the trails and off the ice will keep everyone much safer.