My first year as Club President has been quite a learning experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with our Board, Club Volunteers, and Groomer Operators. Our Club has been more involved with supporting the Community, increased social events, and has established a great working relationship with other Clubs in District 7.
At my first Board meeting as Club President, my first order of business was to make it perfectly clear to our directors that to be successful, Snowcrest Riders Snowmobile Club must collectively as a Board make the decisions that affect this organization. As Permit buyers / Club members, we appreciate your input, ideas, and suggestions to base some of our decisions on.
You will notice that our 2009 Trail map will be printed on more user friendly material. This was based on some of your concerns that once a few snowflakes landed on the map material we have been using, the map would fall apart.
For the first time, Snowcrest Riders now has Operating Procedures, Health & Safety Policy, Safety Assurance Procedures with Theory and Practical Training for Groomer Operation, Chainsaw Operation, and Staking & Monitoring of Waterways.
Also, for the first time in many years, we have an operating budget and a Volunteer Coordinator. As a volunteer myself, I realized one of the worst things an organization could do, is have someone volunteer their services and then never be called or informed of Club activities.
Currently, I am chair of District 7 sub-committee for developing and implementing Heath & Safety Policy, Procedures and Training by sharing our information with the other 10 Clubs in District 7.
In just one year we have started to make many positive changes. However, as an avid snowmobiler, I realize there is still much work yet to do. Issues such as reducing road running, bypassing wet areas such as swamps, map boxes on trails, gas location signs on trails need to be addressed. One of my goals is to make our trails more inviting to our permit buyers and visitors to our trail system. We need to start looking at our trails as if we are new to the area and rely on user friendly trails, signage, and information.
We have identified and have plans in place for some of the work that we need to do. Some of these projects are quite large and costly. Therefore, your continued support through volunteering and purchasing of trail permits with our Club will be greatly appreciated. Some projects will also rely on Government and OFSC funding, as well as DFO, MNR, and landowner agreements. These improvements may not happen overnight, but I am committed to doing everything possible to make them happen ASAP. It is my hope that you will start to see some change during our 2008/2009 season.
When you look back to the grass roots of snowmobiling, you see that it was all about a few riders getting together for a day of fun and camaraderie. Experiencing together, what nature has to offer in the winter months by charting new routes to get to and from their favorite destinations.
As more people became involved and traffic increased, the development of trails and grooming equipment began. Thus, began Organized Snowmobiling.
Our pioneers of organized snowmobiling worked as a team to form Clubs, organize social events, promote community spirit, and invented new ways to build and maintain connecting trail systems.
These pioneers will tell you how they use to groom trails by pulling old bed springs behind their snowmobiles and that back in the grass roots days, it was a team effort with almost everyone working together.
As snowmobiling evolved, a new generation of snowmobilers emerged with expectations of wide, smooth, well signed, scenic groomed trails that would be there and ready for use, when they arrived. It appears that no longer can we claim that snowmobiling is a total team effort.
Many Clubs including ours, have only 1 to 2 percent of Club Members who actively volunteer their time and skills, and or come out to support Club events. That is only 16 people ( some of whom are our remaining pioneers ) for maintaining 300kms of trails and supporting various functions. For many riders, their involvement ends at the time of their trail permit purchase. While supporting the Club by purchasing a trail permit is truly appreciated and needed, this philosophy has changed the future of the sport.
Other things that have changed over the years that have a negative impact to our trails are our climate, snowmobile design, and rider attitudes.
Our climate is warmer now and more unpredictable than in earlier years. While we still receive more than adequate snow fall, ( 18ft in Muskoka this past season ), we do not have the cold temperatures early & during the season on a regular basis that we require to sustain ideal day to day riding conditions.
Snowmobiles manufacturers have concentrated more & more over the years on performance of snowmobiles. We now have sleds that are powered by engines in excess of 900cc’s, have improved suspensions, steering, and come equipped with tracks that are named ripsaw. These sleds are built for speed.
When these sleds run through our trail system, they do exactly what they were built to do – - – - travel at excessive speeds over 50km/hr, tear up freshly groomed trails like a ripsaw and cause moguls and banks on the trails.
Attitude of many snowmobilers today is different than years ago. Snowmobiling as I mentioned earlier was a chance for family and friends to get out and enjoy nature with one another. Often stopping to enjoy the scenery and even pulling over to warm by a fire or have a small meal over the fire. Some of today’s snowmobilers, are more concerned with how fast they can make it from point “A” to point “B” with little or no concern for the families ( with children ) that still enjoy riding on the trails within their means, the environment they are in, and observing the legal speed limit.
Keep in mind – - – Riding on OFSC trails is a privilege, not a right.
While trail permit revenue helps offset Club operating costs and capital equipment purchases and maintenance, a clubs survival is still dependant on the generosity of volunteers, landowners and community spirit. It’s important to note that the fact trail permits have not increased in price for four years now & will not see an increase for the 2008/09 season, operating costs have steadily increased. Just look at the price of fuel over the last four years.
Last season, the Club’s cost ( payable to the OFSC ) for a seasonal permit was $91.38. When you paid $180.00 for your OFSC Trail Permit, only $88.62 was actual Club revenue.
It is also important to note the words “help offset” as clubs cover operating costs through trail permit revenues, donations, volunteer efforts, marketing, and fund raising initiatives.
A dilemma clubs now face is – - – , how can we continue to meet the expectations of this new generation, while operating in the framework developed by the previous generation?
How much are snowmobilers prepared to pay for this modern trail system that they demand? How long will the community spirited club volunteers continue to serve the sport, and will they have replacements when they retire?
Unless we change some of these mind sets, and we continue to believe that we have done our part of contributing to our Club by purchasing a trail permit, the sustainability and future of snowmobiling in Ontario will be in jeopardy.
We now have a Club Volunteer Coordinator, we now have volunteer job information and sign up sheets available on our website. All we need now is for Club members to sign up. You will be embraced. Remember, this is your Club. This Board has made great strides this past year by being more involved with the community, our neighboring clubs, and with one another. We have improved on our administration side and cost management. All we need now is to concentrate more on improving our trails and marketing. To do this we need you. We are not alone. Almost all other clubs are noticing a declining volunteer base. Remember we are “Powered by Permits and Driven by Volunteers”.
I take my hat off to our Board of Directors & the few volunteers that we have for their hard work, the pride that they take in their work, their continuing commitment to this Club, and their friendship.
Our Annual General meeting was held on June 6, 2008. I would like to welcome new Directors Kevin Mertens and Wayne Winterbottom to the Snowcrest Riders Snowmobile
Club Board of Directors. I would also like to thank outgoing directors Carl Hallett and Mark Newell for their efforts and support over the last few years.
We have volunteer information sheets available on our website. I encourage each one of you to consider volunteering and maybe sign up with a friend or family member. If you have a son or daughter that would like to help with you, Snowcrest Riders supports the 40 hour community service program for high school students. Check the volunteer box on your 2009 Permit Application Form
Thank you everyone for your continued support. I look forward to meeting many of you on our trails and at our fund raising / social events.
My wife has just informed me that her sled is ready to go, and my sled still needs a wash shine. Get the wax & cloths back out dear – - – - you just did mine.
And to think I didn’t want identical sleds.