JANUARY 6, 2011: Snowcrest Riders celebrate bridge reopening

NEW BRIDGE. Snowmobilers cross the new 240-foot bridge over Beaver Creek on the picturesque Top D Trans Canada Trail in Gravenhurst. Although it was completed before the 2009-10 season began, the bridge was officially reopened last Wednesday. Photo by Allyson Snelling

GRAVENHURST — It’s official. The 2009-10 snowmobile season has been great for Snowcrest Riders.

Bob Clarke, president of the Gravenhurst-area snowmobile club, said the club has much to celebrate going forward in 2010 after two significant investments.

On Wednesday, club representatives gathered with volunteers and members of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club’s District 7, to commemorate the official reopening of the snowmobile bridge over Beaver  Creek.

The nearly $400,000 bridge, which is located on the picturesque Top D Trans Canada Trail in Gravenhurst, replaces the bridge removed in 2006 after the Department of Fisheries and Oceans declared it violated the Federal Fisheries Act.

The bridge’s construction disrupted a cold-water fish habitat, DFO said.

The Town of Gravenhurst was fined $5,000 in the incident.

The new bridge, funded equally by the National Trails Coalition and OFSC, was constructed last year in late summer and early fall by Fowler Construction, Clarke said.

It reopens and improves more than 30 kilometres of snowmobile and shared-use trail, where permitted, by addressing safety concerns with the previous route, which ran onto Doe Lake Road, he explained.

Clarke said the excessive road running caused damage to snowmobiles. When the trail closed approximately four years ago, it deterred snowmobilers from visiting the community, he added.

“The new, 240-foot bridge will allow for the trail route to be relocated off of busy concession roads and into a much more secure and scenic area,” said Clarke. “The project will greatly enhance provincial riding opportunities.”

The club began preparing for the project two and a half years ago. It made a commitment to OFSC trail permit buyers that it would be shovel ready, should funding become available for a new bridge.

Tony Clement, Parry Sound-Muskoka MP, was pleased the federal government’s stimulus fund could provide the monies needed to replace the original crossing.

He said the bridge is important for the economy, Muskoka’s tourism and safe snowmobiling.

In addition to the bridge, Snowcrest Riders this season also received a 2005 Pisten Bully groomer, valued at approximately $100,000, through the OFSC’s industrial groomer program fund. The OFSC grant funded about 80 per cent of the groomer, with Snowcrest covering about 20 per cent of the cost. The third groomer for the club, the Pisten Bully replaces a 2003 groomer that struggled to perform necessary grooming.

Trail permit sales dropped about 10 per cent, but Snowcrest anticipates selling more than 1,000 trail permits this season.

Norm Woods, OFSC District 7 president, attributed the decline in sales to the late snowfall this winter and the economy

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