Trail permits support local clubs and encourages the sport

Did you take advantage of Manitoulin’s nicely groomed network of snowmobile trails this past Family Day long holiday weekend? Did you perhaps download the free Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) trail permit that let you enjoy Ontario’s vast range of trails absolutely free and legally, including Manitoulin’s impressive area of sledding routes?

If you did any of the above, wasn’t it fun?

Well, just in case you have a snowmachine but haven’t laid down your $260 for an OFSC permit that will see you through the rest of the snowy season and let you roam the length and breadth of this province on the right side of the law, please plan on doing so.

These nicely groomed trails on Manitoulin Island are there courtesy of a combination of volunteer trail clearers, paid groomer drivers, appropriate and reliable grooming equipment to get the job done and, in many, many cases, those trails take you efficiently from Point A to Points B, C and D because of the generosity of landowners who have agreed to let the trails cross their properties.

Don’t forget about the trail insurance, either, that protects and indemnifies those private landowners and gives them some peace of mind in the event a mishap should happen on their property. That insurance flows from the OFSC to the local club, the Manitoulin Snowdusters, which is, in effect, the Manitoulin branch or chapter of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs.

All of this information is relevant because the Manitoulin Snowdusters and its relationship to the OFSC, the corresponding liability insurance that covers the trails and local landowners from liability and the funding that flows from the OFSC to the Manitoulin Snowdusters to help purchase new trail grooming equipment are directly related to the support for the OFSC’s and Manitoulin Snowdusters’ efforts that you demonstrate when you buy an OFSC trail permit for your sled.

It’s pretty simple: the money that you pay for your trail permit is initially divided with the smaller portion remaining with the local club, the Manitoulin Snowdusters around here, while the larger share goes to “head office,” to the OFSC itself.

But the OFSC acts like a bank, or more so like a grant agency, for its member clubs across the province who can apply for major cash infusions to purchase grooming equipment.

The Manitoulin Snowdusters Snowmobile Club has been able to take advantage of this program in the past and it was major Manitoulin Island news about 15 years ago when the club took delivery of a brand new, state-of-the-art groomer and the track machine to tow it and was able to do so courtesy of OFSC funds that flowed back to Manitoulin to allow snowmobile enthusiasts to ride good trails.

Some years, Island snowmobilers are more generous to their sport and to their local club than at other times when they lay down their money and purchase trail permits. Other years when there isn’t, perhaps, as much snow and riders are concerned about getting their money’s worth or when people, for one reason or another feel the need to pinch pennies, they are not as inclined to buy those permits.

There are two consequences to this approach: first, when a snowmobile enthusiast rides one of the OFSC trails in Ontario, and they do not have a current permit on their sled, they are breaking the law and are subject to charges by the OPP in just the same way as the provincial force charges drivers on the roads for infractions.

And second, when the funds are not flowing to the local club and to the parent OFSC organization, the relationship between paid-up Manitoulin Snowdusters members and Island trail improvement is very direct: the funds that come back here are completely proportional to the number of permits purchased in the Snowdusters’ territory.

With any kind of luck, we’ll have a good six weeks of winter fun left on the trails so if you haven’t yet purchased a trail permit and you are sledding, or intend to, the only right thing to do is to drop by one of the Manitoulin businesses that sell trail permits (these are: Allen’s Automotive and Highway 6 Service Centre in Little Current, BJ’s OK Tire in M’Chigeeng, Buie’s Grocery in Spring Bay, Fogal’s in Gore Bay, Rylan’s Clothing Garage in Mindemoya and Allen’s Automotive in Manitowaning) or purchase your permit online at www.ofsc.on.ca. The Manitoulin Snowdusters Snowmobile Club will be credited with your online purchase when you type in the club’s name.

Not only is this important for the good health and development of the sport locally but it puts you and your sled on the right side of the law as well (unless you plan to confine your riding only to your own farm or camp and what would be the fun in that).

It’s a good year for the sport: enough snow for a solid base and good trails, the promise of more cold weather to ensure the trails remain viable and the more investments in permits this season means Manitoulin is that much more in the running for future funding for trail development and improvement through the OFSC.

Everybody wins.