St. Marys Journal Argus
The volunteers who make agreements with landowners in the St. Marys area, and who groom snowmobile trails that are officially sanctioned by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC), are urging anxious enthusiasts of the activity to keep off the trails until more snow accumulates.
At the access point for the trails near the Meadowridge Variety gas station on James Street South, a bright red “Trail Closed” sign stood starkly in the middle of the trail on Monday, flanked on both sides by fresh snowmobile tracks.
A posting Monday on the Facebook social media page maintained by the Science Hill Drifters snowmobile club — which maintains 188 kilometres of trails in the St. Marys/Kirkton vicinity — summed up the frustration of snowmobilers who aim to maintain positive relationships with law enforcement agencies, and with the good-hearted landowners who risk damage to crops and soil by allowing the trails to cross their fields.
“Yesterday while staking trail trying to get things ready for the season, you wouldn’t believe how many people were (observed) riding trails that were closed!” the Facebook message stated. “It boggles my mind why people would beat their equipment up like that! One guy rode almost 1.2 km across a plowed field that was bare!
“Keep them parked, people. Or, if you must ride, stay off the trails! (And) please respect the landowners!”
Kevin Craig of Medina, a member of the Thamesford Snowmobile Club who helps maintain a trail system that links up with the Science Hill Drifters network just outside St. Marys, was in total agreement when he spoke to the Journal Argus earlier this week.
Craig said riding on the closed trails has not been as serious a problem yet for the Thamesford club, although he has noticed a few snowmobile tracks running off roadways onto the trails. But he agreed that the St. Marys-area club has a bigger challenge: Just this past weekend, he even saw pick-up trucks with snowmobile trailers stopped near Science Hill Drifters trail access points, so it was obvious people had come to the area with the express purpose of driving on closed trails.
“If you’re going to go to the trouble of trailering up and loading up your sleds, at least go somewhere where there’s enough snow!” he said, with a note of surprise.
In a message to the Journal Argus late last week, Science Hill Drifters trail leader and back-up trail groomer operator Dwayne Lawrence said, “if all goes well we might be able to open next weekend.” But until that time, the club is urging people to stay off.
According to Craig, it’s not just snow that’s needed, although that certainly will help. Other factors to consider include the wind, and the type of snow that’s falling.
Over the past week, several feet of snow was deposited on some portions of the trail, he explained. But that’s because, with the extremely cold temperatures and high winds, the snow that was falling was light and fluffy, and it got blown around a lot.
As a result, many fields remain almost bare, with only a light dusting of snow.
Snow that fell Monday, by contrast, came when the temperature hovered near 0°C. It was more of the “packing” variety, which is more conducive to not being blown around and creating a good base for trails.
But, so far, it hasn’t been sufficient.
“I have seen quite a few people out on the fields, but they’re just beating up their sleds and damaging the fields,” he commented.