To the Editor:
Open letter to Minocqua Board Chairman and Board of Supervisors, Minocqua Citizens:
Hello, my name is Sue. On the morning of Jan. 22, 2019, our family’s lives changed forever because of a tragic snowmobile accident, killing my grandson Trey, son of my daughter Kay. My grief was great, taking many months to accept his passing and not thinking of him every day. Trey and a friend were travelling back to a cabin they were staying at, after a night of snowmobiling on a trail in Minocqua. From the trail, they traveled north on Pine Lake Rd., turning onto South Stone Lake Rd. A short distance later Trey’s snowmobile crashed into a gate on South Stone Lake Rd., killing him at the scene, a gate completely blocking the road creating a dead end, a gate on a hill near its bottom. On the other side of the gate, the road continues for miles. The road on the hill does not go straight down, instead going in two directions; near its bottom, the road angles about 110 degrees north, making the entire gate at the hill’s bottom difficult to see from the hill top. Later I learned Stone Lake Rd. is a private road even though its road sign at the intersection of Pine Lake and Stone Lake does not show it is private. Without a private road sign, Trey and his friend thought the road was open to the public. They did not knowingly enter a private road. The lab report showed Trey was over the limit for alcohol, which, no doubt, was a factor in the accident. I think another factor was the location of the gate, too close to the hill, the gate’s dimensions and materials used. According to the DNR accident report, the distance to gate from crest of hill where gate becomes visible is 249 feet. We calculated that if a snowmobiler was travelling 30 mph, he has 5.7 seconds from hill crest, to see gate, recognize it as hazard, try to stop snowmobile, and for machine to stop on snow and ice covered hill. The gate is low to ground, hard to see, especially with inches of snow blanketing the ground. The report states that the north post is 2 feet, 5 inches high and the south post is 1 foot, 10 inches high. Our pictures, taken sometime after the accident, show the north post is a rusty colored pipe with some dark cables coming out of pipe’s top and laying toward south post on other side of road, the south post made from dark wood. There were no reflective, bright colors or dead end warning sign anywhere on gate that we saw. Town officials have told me that since Stone Lake Rd. is private they have no jurisdiction over road or construction of gate that completely blocked the road. I disagree. Because the road is not marked as private at the intersection of Pine Lake and South Stone Lake where a street sign identifies the road as South Stone Lake, a motorist would assume that the road is open to the public and minimum public road standards for road construction, maintenance, and safety are expected. Also, Minocqua Code of Ordinance has minimum requirements for private roads for construction and maintenance by owner, specifying removal of obstacles, road width, rainwater drainage, even road signs etc. So, the town does have jurisdiction over private roads. I urge the chairman and board of supervisors to amend the Code to include minimum gate standards: location, height, bright reflective colors, materials ... Perhaps with gate standards, an accident on any private road in Minocqua will never occur again. My vow is to do everything in my power to prevent this tragedy from happening to someone else’s loved one. Respectfully.
Sue Kent and Kay McKenzie