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Putting Snowmobile Trails To Bed

What happens to the 2,000 kilometres of OFSC Prescribed Snowmobile Trails in our area when winter ends? As the sledding season draws to a close, longer days of sunlight, warming temperature and meltwater combine to erode what was a solid trail base of snow, hard-packed by groomers throughout the winter. Gradually and inevitably, our snowmobile trails simply disappear.

These recreational trails are operated in the hinterlands by clubs who are members of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC). The trails are located in a giant rectangle located between the north shores of the Kawartha Lakes and the southern boundary of Algonquin Park. It’s a huge area anchored in the southwest by Fenelon Falls, northwest by Haliburton, northeast by Bancroft and southeast by Havelock, where these snowmobile trails connect most of our communities during the snowy months. About 70% of them are on private land and 30% on public.

There’s a delicate tipping point between decent spring trail riding conditions and impassable ones, and that point rarely occurs at the same time from year to year or even region to region. So each local snowmobile club makes the call when to stop grooming operations and put their trails to bed for the season. Then their trails go Red (Unavailable) on the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide (ITG) and many clubs post shut down notices on social media.

When that happens, more work follows for club volunteers, as they essentially reverse many of the preparation efforts made the previous fall to get trails ready. This dismantling process is a massive undertaking. It would be akin to a county or municipality closing all of its own roads for an entire season, temporarily removing every piece of traffic, directional and safety apparatus previously installed. Except of course, that such road closures wouldn’t occur in hard to reach, remote areas or be done by volunteers.

Of the 30% of snowmobile trails on public land, many are also designated for year-round multi-use, such as TOP Trail B103, the Victoria and Haliburton Rail Trails that run between Fenelon Falls and Haliburton. The process for ending the snowmobile season on these recreational trails is comparatively straightforward, since many signs are permanent, and these trails remain active for other approved users.

But the 70% of trails on private property are a different story. No one is allowed to enter private property without prior permission in any season. Our snowmobile clubs have that permission from many landowners for snowmobile-only trail use of a defined piece of their land during the winter months. This means no other motorized users are allowed on these trails at any time of the year. So when the trails shut down for snowmobiling, sledders are also prohibited from entering them and doing so is trespassing, just the same as everyone else.

At that point, the club goal is to remove as much indication as possible that the private land served as a snowmobile trail for a few months. Volunteers take down and store thousands of trail signs, stakes marking fields or water crossings, roll up snow fences, remove any debris and litter, close gates, block entry access, and check that “Private Property – No Trespassing and/or “Trail Closed” signs are in place where needed.

As season’s end approaches, our local snowmobile clubs are asking every area snowmobiler to join them in expressing a big “thank you” to the generous landowners who allowed snowmobile trails on their property this winter. Our local clubs also remind operators of ATVs, side by sides, dual sport motorcycles and off-road trucks, to respect our landowners and volunteers by only riding where you have permission and it is legal to do so, which is never on any OFSC snowmobile trail on private land in any season. Let’s ride responsibly out there!

Contact Your Club To Lend A Hand:

Buckhorn & District – buckhorn@district2ofsc.ca

Haliburton County Snowmobile Association – info@hcsa.ca

Havelock & District – hdsc-info@district2ofsc.ca

Kawartha Lakes Snowmobile Club (Fenelon Falls) – klsc@sympatico.ca

Old Hastings Snow Riders (Bancroft) – oldhastings@district2ofsc.ca

Paudash Trail Blazers (Apsley) – volunteer@paudashtrailblazers.on.ca

Stoney Lake Sno Riders – stoneylake@district2ofsc.ca

Twin Mountains (Bobcaygeon) – twinmountains@district2ofsc.ca

Learn More About Snowmobile Trail Riding At:

Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs – www.ofsc.on.ca

Intrepid Snowmobiler – www.intrepidsnowmobiler.com