The Saskatchewan Trails Association (STA) recently announced their discretionary funding grant recipients, and for the Lakeland Snowmobile Club it’s not a moment too soon.
The Christopher Lake based club oversees the maintenance of several snowmobile trails in the area, and after a harsh winter they need all the help they can get.
“This year has been very very difficult for us,” club president Marg Clair says. “Normally it’s not a big deal.”
All of the clubs trails run through Saskatchewan’s northern boreal forest. Fallen trees and branches are common on the trail, but this year the particularly bad weather made it almost impossible to keep clean.
“We actually spent over $55,000 on heavy machinery to clean (the trails),” Clair says. “Normally our budget for cleaning trails is maybe $20,000, so this year we’ve really had to dig into our reserves to pay the bills.”
Normally the club relies on volunteers with chainsaws to do all the heavy work, but severe storms and heavy snowfall throughout the winter have made that impossible. Clair says they had to hire outside help to do the work for them. It’s a job that was made even more challenging because environmental concerns made it difficult to bring in heavy machinery.
“A lot of our trails also go over swampland or muskeg or bogs or sloughs or small bodies of water and because they’re sour they take a long time to freeze, especially when they’ve got snow on top of them,” she explains. “So this year was very tough.”
Clair says she’s unaware of any grant funding, although a press release sent to the Daily Herald listed the club as one of the recipients. She says she’s not sure how much money they’re getting, but they need every penny to keep the trails clear.
“If we don’t get our trails opened and groomed then our funding is cut back from the province.”
Grants aren’t the only financial means at the club’s disposal. They also hold fundraisers, like the recent vintage snowmobile rally, which Clair says was very successful. In addition, the also have some local businesses who provide sponsorship.
“Without our sponsors and our funding from the province we’d be in a lot worse shape,” she says.
The club oversees 382 km of trail in the area, and because of their location often has to deal with conditions that are unusual in the rest of Saskatchewan. The unique location makes for a great tourist attraction, but it is more expensive to maintain.
“When we’re talking about having trouble clearing trails we’re talking 60-foot pine trees that have fallen on our trails,” Clair says, while explaining that in most places it’s limited to snow drifts. “I’m not sure if that’s equal, but it’s treated as equal.”
Clair says they would like to see a few changes to the system, but for now they aren’t going to be picky. If the STA is willing to offer financial assistance, they’re more than happy to take it.
“For our club it’s a matter of survival, as to what our portion of that grant is.”