Trails groomed for snowmobile fun by weekend

MANITOULIN—As of last Saturday, grooming has been underway for the Manitoulin trail system of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC), beginning with the West End and expected to move on to the east (the Little Current area) early this week, marking the official opening of the trails.

Manitoulin Snowdusters media spokesperson Brad Middleton explained that the groomer’s first trip is all important to the trail system as it is used to freeze the base and hopefully cover up the stones and small stumps that are often located beneath the snow. “The cold weather has been helpful this week too,” Mr. Middleton continued. “It helps freeze over the swamps and waterholes where some of the trails must pass over.”

Snowduster volunteers were out in full force last week too, putting up signs, opening gates and a multitude of other tasks to get the trails ready to go.

While temperatures have been ideal for ice creation as of late, Mr. Middleton reminds Island riders that the Manitoulin Snowdusters advises “extreme caution” on frozen lakes but offers no opinion as to when it is safe to go on the lakes, with the exception of those bodies of water where the club places an official stake line across the ice including Little Current to Killarney and Gore Bay to Spanish. As of this week, these trails have not been marked and are therefore not ‘open’ for use.

“We have a wonderful trail system from Gore Bay to Meldrum Bay, but we are fearful that if it doesn’t get used enough it might fall by the wayside,” Mr. Middleton added. “I guess this falls under the category of ‘use it or lose it’.”

The Expositor reported last year that the club was awaiting news of funding for a new groomer from the OFSC but was not successful in this bid with the OFSC choosing instead to replace groomers as old as 1995 or earlier. “Since our two groomers (one for Western Manitoulin and one for Eastern Manitoulin) date to about 2001, we’ll just have to wait in line and use our existing equipment, which still works quite well anyway,” Mr. Middleton said.

As was reported in a December edition of the Manitoulin West Recorder, some concern has been raised over the lack of gas stations on the West End of Manitoulin and its affect on snowmobiling west of Gore Bay. “The Manitoulin Snowdusters is trying to get the message out that there is one retail outlet that sells gasoline on Western Manitoulin, namely the Gamming Gas and Convenience Store at Sheshegwaning First Nation,” he said. “They are open on the weekends and during the week for normal business hours.”

“We have a wonderful trail system from Gore Bay to Meldrum Bay, but we are fearful that if it doesn’t get used enough it might fall by the wayside,” Mr. Middleton added. “I guess this falls under the category of ‘use it or lose it’.”

The Manitoulin Snowdusters remind snowmobilers that they must be equipped with a valid 2015 OFSC trail permit to ride the trails, along with insurance, or be faced with fines.