The Kemptville Snowmobile Klub has been making snowmobile owners happy since 1972, and we are at it again. This year, however, is the strangest year yet, with the lock down due to the corona virus. We cannot host any rallies, group rides, pancake breakfasts, or even have our clubhouse open for snacks and a warm up spot. We are thankful that the provincial government realized the importance of the snowmobile trails to get people out of the house for sunshine, fresh air, and exercise, so they allowed the trails to stay open. We were preparing for a wave of new snowmobilers, based on the strong sales of snowmobiles all Fall. To date, we have 600 sleds with permits calling the Kemptville club home (a record for us), and that translates into about 850 family members relying on our group of volunteers to make the trails happen in North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford. We have only been open for a week, so we are expecting that number to climb. Although the snow cover is sparse, most trails are passable; however, we need another significant snowfall to really make things nice.
Since we have a large group of new sledders out there, we thought it would be a good time to review the rules and riding etiquette. To check trail availability, you have to go to the web site, www.ofsc.on.ca, and find the Integrated Trail Guide (ITG). Zoom in on our area and you will find the trails. Red means they are not available, yellow means they are available but limited quality, and green means available. The provincial government has asked all sledders to remain in their public health unit. That means, when you are planning your ride, you are expected to stay in Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark, which is our health unit. We are doing this to avoid spreading any virus to other locations. This may sound silly because we are in our suits, helmets, balaclavas, so how could we spread the virus? It is because we like to stop in groups to socialize; so please respect the wishes of the government. After all, they were nice enough to allow us to keep the trails open.
When you are on the trails, remember to respect the landowners’ properties. We have been granted permission to cross their land on the marked trail, not wander all over the field and forests. Stay on the trail at all times. Nothing gets us in trouble any faster than a bunch of sleds running around on a field of new seeding. Keep the speed and noise down in residential areas. One of the annual problems is the trespassing off trail in the Ferguson Forest, where there are seed beds of small trees. This is a wonderful recreation area for year around enjoyment, but there are renegade sledders every year who ride off trail and run over seedling trees. If you want to keep enjoying this area on your snowmobile, then please stay off the seed beds.
We also must talk about safety, because the start of the year is usually the most dangerous time, especially for rookie sledders. We will mark the Rideau River and the South Branch when the ice is thick enough. At this time, we are told there is not enough ice in the centre of the river yet. Our guidelines call for 5 inches of good ice to support a snowmobile. Be careful on roads and ditches. Most accidents happen on roads and ditches, or on ice. The trail is the safest place to use your snowmobile.
Make sure you have all your paperwork in order. You must have a driver’s license or a snowmobile operator’s license (12 – 15 years old), insurance on the sled, a provincial license sticker, and, if you are using the trails, an OFSC trail permit. It is best to snowmobile with a buddy in case of an accident or breakdown. Don’t drink and drive your snowmobile. Keep the speed down. The speed limit on the trail is 50kph and 20kph in town. Be extra careful at night. Carry a cell phone and a tow rope. Let your family know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Remember, this is an off road activity. Mother nature rules, so if a tree blows down across the trail, or a deer jumps out in front of you, be prepared.
In conclusion, we want to thank our landowners who, again this year, allow us the privilege of crossing their property to connect our trail system. We want to thank all of the permit purchasers who supply us the funding to make these trails. We want to thank the volunteers who put it all together and spend hundreds of hours trying to provide the community with a safe and enjoyable recreation. And to all of those new to snowmobiling, this is not a usual year. Normally, our agenda would be full of activities for you to enjoy. Bear with us through this crazy winter and, hopefully, we will be back to normal next year, our 50th. And finally, we are putting a plug in for Easter Seals. As most of you know, our club has had an annual breakfast, auction, and ride to raise money for this great cause. Since we cannot do these activities this year, watch our Facebook page to see what we can come up with to raise those funds in spite of the virus. That’s all the news for now. Have fun and stay safe!