By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star
---- — SCHOHARIE — Patrolling the vast network of snowmobile trails cutting across Schoharie County has been a tall order these past two winters for the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Department.
That’s because the agency lost its only two snowmobiles in the flood that devastated county government’s complex of buildings in August 2011, when Hurricane Irene caused Schoharie Creek to surge and overflow its banks.
Enter community-minded local businesses and members of the Sharon Pathfinders Snowmobile Club, all of whom recognized the importance of having mechanically sound snowmobiles accessible to a sheriff’s department in one of the snowiest regions of upstate New York.
“People come from all over to go snowmobiling in Schoharie County,” observed Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Minton, assigned to the department’s snow patrol by Sheriff Tony Desmond. “They help pick up the economy by going out to restaurants and spending money when they’re here.”
The Sheriff’s Department is responsible for patrolling the hundreds of miles of trails each winter. The department has also found the machines to be a valuable resource when huge snowdrifts paralyze communities to the point that frail senior citizens are trapped inside their own homes.
“We’ve actually gone in and brought people out of their homes with them,” noted Minton, who is assigned to the snow patrol along with Deputies Zach Reinhart and Todd Ethington.
The machines can also be used for rescues on frozen lakes, and as the ice cover begins to melt, snowmobiles are less prone to crack through the ice than a person on foot, officials said.
The Sheriff’s Office recently filled the void created by Hurricane Irene by taking delivery of two new 2012 Ski-Doo Renegade Adrenaline snowmobiles. The machines — valued at about $7,000 each — were purchased from Gable Motorsports with donations kicked in by the Cobleskill Walmart store, the Sharon Pathfinders Snowmobile Club and assistance from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The donations also aided the department in purchasing equipment such as helmets and snow gear from Matt’s Cycle Center of Coxsackie, with the assistance of owner Chris Gerken, Desmond said.
In addition to using the machines for emergency rescue responses, the department will utilize them in the snowmobile safety training it offers and at various special events. The machines have seen limited use since they arrived because of the lack of snowfall the past two weeks.
“Mother Nature decides when we use them,” Minton said.