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Permit sales, volunteers needed to keep trails open

As snow continues to blanket the district, Red Lake’s Trailmasters Snowmobile Club President Chris Oakes says it will still be some time before all area trails are ready for snowmobilers as October’s storm knocked out more than just the power.

“With the ice storm our trails are literally destroyed,” said Oakes last week. “It is mostly our trails to Walsh Lake, East Bay and Slate Bay – those areas are really badly devastated with the broken brush… It is going to take a lot of volunteers to get out there and clean that up.”

As the ground freezes larger equipment can be used to push the trail through, however, Oakes says the local club is looking for more volunteers to keep the trails free of obstacles and make snowmobile travel safe.

Dec. 1 is the deadline to purchase a pre-season trail pass and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobilers Club (OFSC) is encouraging everyone to buy early to provide clubs across the country with funds they need to get the season underway. Early permit revenue provides clubs with the necessary funding to prepare and open area trails and includes all of the other associated costs to get ready for winter like groomer payments, insurance and repairs.

“Early permit revenue is the lifeblood of OFSC trails,” said Paul Shaughnessy, OFSC Executive Director. “Without it, clubs don’t have the ability to deliver the trails that snowmobilers want and expect or to fulfill their responsibilities for community based snowmobiling. Without early permit revenue, clubs also can’t deliver the trails that generate considerable winter tourism revenues for many snowbelt communities.”

The Red Lake club needs to continue to sell at least 50 passes each year to stay sanctioned by the provincial organization. Oakes says the group averages 50-60 sales a year which have been in a steady decline from their top sales years of more than 320 passes. This year the group has amalgamated with the Ear Falls chapter bringing more sales but also a larger maintenance area.

“A permit allows you to ride anywhere in Ontario. You buy a permit in Red Lake and a hundred dollars of that stays with the club. The balance of the money goes to the OFSC and then we apply as an individual club to the OFSC for funding for special projects like new groomers, trail development,” explains Oakes who also notes despite the large portion of the cost of the pass being given to OFSC, the club regularly applies for infrastructure funding and has in the past received about 60 per cent of what is collected for upgrades and special projects.

An example of this new infrastructure is the L301 which was opened last year and now provides a more direct route to the TransCanada trail in Dryden from Ear Falls using the existing rail bed. “If we want to maintain that link between Red Lake and the top trail we need to promote the sale of permits more,” the president added.

To get involved with the Red Lake Trailmasters Snowmobile Club contact Chris Oakes at 735-3110 or to help with trail maintenance contact Don Gagne at 735-2535. Real time trail updates are available on OFSC website at www.ofsc.on.ca.

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