No Volunteers, No Trails - By Lynn Keillor
An article was recently posted on a trail grooming Facebook group regarding a club in Maine that was shutting down due to a lack of members and volunteers. The article, in the Portland Press Herald, told the story of the Fox Glen Snowmobile Club, which had just sold its clubhouse because they couldn't afford the upkeep. The club was down to 10 members. The trails? Gone. Another Maine club, where the youngest member is 65, put out a plea to snowmobilers saying, "There will be no trails if we don't get more people." A few folks heeded the call and helped with fall trail maintenance, keeping the trails open for another season. Could this happen in Minnesota and other places? If the comments from groomers across the snowbelt are any indication, the answer is yes. "I'm afraid this is common among most clubs," says Robert Johnston, a member of Northwest Trails. "Good workers are hard to come by. I'm 44 and have been doing this my whole life but I'm tired of it,too." "So sorry to have this happen to a snowmobile club that has been around for as long as they have been," commented a groomer from New York. "If the younger crowd, who never has time to do anything except reap the fruits of the volunteers and just ride, does not change their thought process, this will happen to many clubs. Are you going to be one of the members in your club that will let this happen?" Some groomers suggested extreme measures. ''I've said it many times: close the trails for one season and see what happens. 'Where are the trails? It was here before,'" said a Wisconsin commenter. "Yah, I know it's a drastic measure but what's it going to take?" An East Coast snowmobiler said, "If people don't want to volunteer then trail passes should be $300 instead of $100 (or whatever they are). Then the volunteers can be paid or money used to hire a company to cut trees or a carpenter or crew to build a bridge, etc." So, what can we do? I'm pointing at all of us. You're getting this magazine because you're already a member of a club, a member of MnUSA or are interested enough in snowmobiling to pick it up. If everyone who reads this magazine volunteered one afternoon for the benefit of snowmobile trails, the problem would be solved - and while the physical labor is vital to trails, there are other valuable jobs in a club that don't require breaking a sweat. Bring the kids, too. In its November issue, this magazine ran a photo of 7-year-old Arik Bebeau hammering on a bridgeon the Greenway Snowmobile Club system in Calumet. Not only is young Arik learning the values of hard work, volunteerism and supporting a sport that he enjoys, he's also spending valuable time with his dad. What kid wouldn't enjoy that? The trails that we have are an incredible, valuable resource, but they are not guaranteed. What afternoon will you give, with your family, to keep it going?