By: Joanne M. Haas/WDNR Bureau of Law Enforcement
A family's utility-terrain vehicle goes kaput. A pick-up driver makes the wrong turn onto a multi-use trail. And a grandfather needs helmet help for his grandkids.
And that was just part of what happened on the trails during a recent weekend DNR warden safety detail in three regions. Summer doesn't officially start for a bit, but the folks having fun on Wisconsin's incredible trails already makes it feel like vacation time is here!
Go back a couple of weeks to the long Memorial Day weekend.
Hundreds of off-highway trail enthusiasts ventured on Wisconsin trails during that always-busy weekend. And their state DNR Conservation Warden Service were there, too!
If you were out, you may have seen the wardens on a highly-visible specialized safety detail. They were in three regions where the wardens and other law enforcement agency partners helped operators, removed intoxicated drivers, handled incidents and -- this is the cool part -- enjoyed conversations with many kicking off their summer
Capt. April Dombrowski, who heads the DNR's Bureau of Law Enforcement's Recreational Safety and Outdoor Skills Section, says the goal of these details was to ensure users of all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles (ATV and UTV) enjoyed the recreational experience in a safe and responsible manner.
"The wardens were there for safety purposes. That meant removing operators who were intoxicated or driving recklessly and illegally," Capt. April said. "That also meant we were there to help operators - like the family whose vehicle broke down or needed appropriate helmets for their children riders."
These safety details were held in the counties of Jackson, Marinette and Oconto, and on the Tri-County Trail System in the counties of Lafayette, Iowa and Green.
Sadly, there were four fatal UTV/ATV incidents during that holiday weekend in Adams, Buffalo, Iron and Trempealeau counties. Wardens worked with local sheriff offices on two ATV injury crashes in Jackson and Adams counties.
If you're into stats, here is a quick look at the totals for all safety detail counties combined. The numbers show wardens:
What about stories from the trails? Here are a few:
Wardens helped a family of four when their UTV went kaput in the Tri-County Trail area. The wardens towed the UTV to the nearest town, where the family arranged for a ride.
Also, on the Tri-County Trail system, a grandfather thanked the wardens for their information that the bike helmets the grandkids had on their heads needed to be replaced by ones designated for off-vehicle vehicles.
Over in Lafayette County, wardens on night patrol spotted a full-size pickup truck turn onto an ATV trail and accelerate to about 50 mph. Wardens worked with local law enforcement and caught the operator, who was arrested by the sheriff's office for OWI.
"Teamwork with our wardens, local law enforcement - as well as the users who always want to enjoy a safe, fun ride - is what made this special safety detail a success in all areas," Capt. April said. "Our hearts are heavy for these families as they have lost loved ones. And the work on safety will continue as we continue to do our part to help spare more families from these tragic losses."
What else have the wardens been doing?
A lot. The stats are in for the first three months of this year.
From January to March of this year, wardens had more than 65,000 public contacts, responded to 118 accidents and delivered more than 300 safety and other presentations at schools and community fairs.
And that's just a partial list.
No two days are the same for your wardens - as their mission to protect the state's natural resources and all the people who enjoy them, and that includes you!
If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay report information to conservation wardens