Northeast Town opens two road allowances to Snowdusters

Some conditions apply

MANITOULIN—While the Manitoulin Snowdusters Snowmobile Club has received the blessing of Northeast Town council for use of two unopened road allowances in its municipality to provide access to two key pieces of trail (following landowners’ withdrawal of permission for trails across their properties), snowy weather and approval from Sheguiandah First Nation chief and council are still needed before the eastern trails are opened.

“We’re waiting for snow and cold weather,” said Snowdusters president Doran McVey in a Monday interview. “Trails are still closed because there’s not enough snow.”

While the groomers did head out on trails on Manitoulin’s West End and in the Little Current and Sheguiandah areas before Christmas, the warm weather and rain since mean that the trails have had a setback.

As reported last month, the Snowdusters turned to the Northeast Town after key parcels of land were removed from the trail system by four landowners in the Sheguiandah and Honora areas.

The Snowdusters found two unopened road allowances which they felt could be of benefit for them: the first is a road allowance that runs in a north/south direction along the west side of the Sheguiandah First Nation, and more particularly, the part that runs from Indian Mountain Road southward to Red Lodge Road (Bidwell Lot 1, Concession 7 to Sheguiandah Lot 1, Concession 9); and second, the road allowance that runs in an east/west direction from the 20th Sideroad west to join into Guida Sideroad (where municipal road maintenance starts), and from there out to Hwy. 540 (Howland Concession 1 and 3).

Northeast Town CAO Dave Williamson explained to council at the Tuesday, December 20 council meeting that he had met with representatives of the Snowdusters and explained the request to council.

“I think it is really important to establish a connection for the trails,” said Councillor Michael Erskine. “Especially for Little Current, which is current cut off (from the rest of the trails). It sounds like this will have the least impact on local landowners and seems like a good solution to the problem.”

Councillor Paul Skippen expressed concerns with fences being removed on the unopened road allowances for the trails. Mr. Williamson stated, “It would not be unreasonable to add a condition that, if a gate is removed, it must be added back at the end of the season.” The condition was added to the motion.

“Why did this come up in the first place?” questioned Councillor Bill Koehler. “Why were good trails cut off? This is unfortunate as there is not much for families to do in the winter.”

“I support this request from the Snowdusters,” said Councillor Marcel Gauthier. “People come here to use our trails and it stimulates our economy in the winter. It is a good resolution and I will support it.”

“It is unfortunate that the trails were cut off, but it was on private property,” said Councillor Erskine. “People have a right to enjoy their private property and allow usage as they see fit. We needed to find a solution that works for everyone and this one does.”

The conditions asked for by council are: that the Snowdusters provide the municipality with evidence of permission from Sheguiandah First Nation for the use of the road allowance that abuts the reserve; it is the responsibility of the Manitoulin Snowdusters to ensure all work being done is on municipal property and the municipality will not be held responsible for any damage done or work performed on private property; Manitoulin Snowdusters will provide the Northeast Town with proof of insurance with the municipality as a named insured for the development and maintenance of the trail system at a rate of $5 million on an annual basis; any and all trees removed from the road allowance will be offered to the adjacent landowner; all work done will be subject to supervision and approval of the manager of public works; and any fencing removed for the development of the trail will be reinstated at the end of each season.

Both motions for the use of the unopened road allowances were carried by council.

Mr. McVey said that the Snowdusters are in the process of setting up a meeting with Sheguiandah First Nation chief and council but until that happens, coupled with the need for more snow and cold weather, all snowmobilers can do is wait.