Island sled trails to open soon

MANITOULIN—Sled heads rejoice! Winter is upon us and before long the Manitoulin trails will be open—almost all of them this year.

Many people have been asking when the trails will be open, understandably considering the blast of cold and snow Manitoulin has received in recent weeks.

“Manitoulin Snowdusters (MSD) will probably wait until the week between Christmas and New Year’s before opening up,” said Manitoulin Snowdusters spokesperson Brad Middleton late last week. “Watch the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs website for Manitoulin. We usually like to wait until we have 10 to 12 inches (about 20-25 cm) of snow before the all-important first trip over with the groomer, which involves freezing in the base.”

Mr. Middleton noted that the type of fluffy snow we’ve been getting of late doesn’t always make the best base for the first groom as a foot of fluffy snow grooms down to about three or four inches of snow after the groomer goes over it the first time. “This can still leave a lot of rocks and stumps exposed on the trails.”

The Snowdusters are also hoping for another deep freeze as the bush is full of water because of all the rain this year. “We also need some more cold weather like we had last week to tighten things up on the ground underneath the snow or else you roll up a bunch of slush and mud on the first groom,” Mr. Middleton said.

In Mindemoya, rumour had it that the trail access would be no more, but thanks to the hard work and lobbying efforts of the MSD and the cooperation of several local landowners on the outskirts of Mindemoya, access to the town has been restored.

“MSD would like to extend special thanks to the landowners who came on board and made this situation possible,” said Mr. Middleton.

On the subject of Fraser Road in Billings Township, a major connecting link to the West End, as a result of the Township of Billings choosing not to further pursue court action with the landowners along the north end of Fraser Road, MSD has had to put a new trail in place over the summer.

“Construction is being completed even as we speak, and will be finished in the New Year,” Mr. Middleton said. “The new trail will cross lands on the east side of the Billings Stretch and rejoin the south end of Fraser Road, north of Manitoulin Secondary School.”

The Snowdusters were also dealing with trail issues northwest of Spring Bay due to a “break in the line,” meaning that access from Gore Bay to Providence Bay and Mindemoya would no longer be possible.

“That situation has now been remedied,” Mr. Middleton continued. “Special thanks go out to Lou Lanktree and his family for letting us cross his land one more year. Construction of a new trail down through the same area is planned to begin right after New Year’s and will be in place for next year.”

“The main trail from Little Current to M’Chigeeng and Central Manitoulin (C107D) is definitely a go this year,” Mr. Middleton confirmed. “It has been rerouted to go around certain areas where landowners had withdrawn permission as a result of Bill 100 a couple of years ago.”

However, the trail between Little Current and Manitowaning is not in place for the coming season with the Snowdusters still looking into some possibilities, “but it may be difficult to have something in place this year,” Mr. Middleton said.

A youth snowmobile driving course will be taking place on Wednesday, January 3 in Little Current. The six-hour, one-day course is open to youths age 12 years old or older which will see them qualify for a snowmobile driver’s licence. To register, contact Lorie Leeson at (705) 859-3528. The number of spaces is limited and filling up fast so please call soon.

Mr. Middleton urged Island snowmobilers to mark a couple of dates on their calendar. The annual MSS student ride will take place on February 9, 2018. This will include students from the high school, at least two teachers, members of the local police, members of the Snowdusters and other interested parties.

The ‘Try Our Trails’ weekend offered by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) will be Saturday, February 3. All members of the public can ride the trails free, even if they do not have a trail permit. It is part of the OFSC’s attempt—in conjunction with the Ontario Government—to encourage more people to buy a trail permit and/or take up the sport of snowmobiling.

Finally, a reminder that all snowmobilers must have valid insurance and a trail permit to hit the trails this season and can buy them online at https://permits.ofsc.on.ca/.

Happy, and safe, sledding!