A well-used snowmobile trail in Oxford Mills. Photo by Ashley Sloan

“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” as the old saying goes. It means, of course, that if someone is doing you a favour or helping you, you would be unwise to make them regret it. Another common one is “if you give an inch they will take a mile”. It turns out that some local snowmobilers ought to crack open a book of adages. 

The local trail network used by those riding ATVs and snowmobiles is a complex one, made possible only by the generosity and community spirit of countless farmers and other landowners who allow trails to pass through their property. Depending on the time of year and the trail in question, a permit is often required to use the trails. In exchange, the trails are well-groomed and marked with ample safety signage including stop signs, speed indications, turn warnings, and travel point signs. It is possible to take trails from one town to another, meaning that trails can be used both recreationally and as a pragmatic means of travel. 

One problem that is certainly not new when it comes to recreational trails is trespassing beyond the defined borders of the trail. Going “off trail”, so to speak, is not only disrespectful, but unwise. Farmers who designate a specific path for recreational vehicles to traverse their land don’t deserve to have their expensive crops or well-prepared farmland torn up by those who decide not to stay within the boundary. The “disrespectful” part of this is the fact that we are a farming community, and we are supposed to look after each other. The “unwise” part is the simple fact that those who disrespect trail boundaries run the risk of trails being closed entirely. 

The practice of trespassing in recreational vehicles gives a certain double meaning to the phrase “give an inch and they will take a mile”. Those who use recreational trails need to remember that the inch they have been given is enough. When the land being disrespected is local farmland, it gives an almost literal meaning to “biting the hand that feeds you”. 

The complaints for the current snowmobiling season have already started to roll in. More trails are being closed and alternative routes being sought each year, and it’s because the few spoil it for the many. The Kemptville Campus property is a prime example of land that is not intended for snowmobilers, but all too often gets used as such anyway. To those who use recreational trails: respect boundaries and obey signage, and think twice before trespassing. It’s about time we thanked the hands that feed us. 



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