Opeongo snowbirds getting new grader from OFSC

President gives update on season so far; addresses sign thefts

President gives update on season so far; addresses sign thefts

Staff Reporter

– The Opeongo Snowbirds Snowmobile Club will soon be getting a shiny, new grader from the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs.
President Cheryl Reid said she found out about the news on January 14.

“It will be the first and only groomer that we will ever see brand new in this club,” she chuckled. “We all jumped up and down when we found out and we did our happy dance.”

The Prinoth Husky groomer is worth around $200,000.

The local snowmobile club, which is responsible for the maintenance and grooming of the region’s trails, was utilizing a used groomer and a used, borrowed groomer.

“We had a lot of unexpected repairs to the equipment at the beginning of the season, which is a catch 22. Permit sales are down, and we have repairs that need to be done on the equipment to get it out on the snow, but we don’t have the money,” she said, throwing her arms up in the air.

As of January 18, only 120 permits have been sold, compared to the 175 budgeted by the local club. This is putting a serious dent into the club’s budget, which covers equipment breakdown. But Reid remains optimistic with the accumulation of snow received last week, and hopes that will drive the permit sales up.

Now that the new groomer is coming, those repair expenses will not be as high for quite some time.

“It will help out a tremendous amount,” she said.

According to OFSC’s website, the Government of Ontario injected the province-wide snowmobile network with $400,000 for the 2011/2012 Industrial Groomer Fund. The money went along with the OFSC’s contribution of $600,000, which goes towards the purchase of new groomers and the refurbishment of existing ones.

There are over 340 groomer units in the OFSC provincial fleet that put on over 100,000 hours collectively each winter. Groomers are deemed most efficient for the first 10 years of their life. When they climb that age, the OFSC reports that they operate only 50 to 75 per cent of the time due to down time from major repairs.

“One of the main reasons why we are receiving that groomer is that it’s the OFSC’s commitment to our area, knowing that we are one of the first clubs to be open for the season,” Reid said. “They recognize us to the entire system.”

The trail system in the Opeongo Snowbirds region spans from Whitney to Wilno and everywhere in-between. Reid said the groomer should be arriving locally in two weeks from now. She added the club should get 20 years of use out of the machine.

“We hope to see that in the next two weeks,” she said. “In the history of our club, we have never gotten a new groomer.”

In the meantime, the club will continue using the loaner groomer and the other older machine in its fleet.


With good news comes bad news, however.

According to a press release sent out by Crime Stoppers, sometime within the last three weeks, someone has removed approximately 15 OFSC signs and metal posts from the B-trail between Aylen Lake and Barry’s Bay, as well as on trail 155.

“Every time we put up a sign, it gets stolen. It very clearly says on the sign that it’s OFSC property,” she said, adding it is a crime. “It’s very frustrating because if a stop sign is stolen, that trail is closed until we can replace the stop sign.”

So not only is the thief stealing a sign, they are potentially shutting down a trail, thus potentially losing business for the area.

Every time the groomer goes out, the operator checks the signs and replaces stolen ones accordingly.

“But we are running out of signs and we have no money,” Reid said. “We have a box of signs. Once they are gone – we are done. If the signs continue to be stolen and we don’t have any left, then yes, that trail will be closed because it’s a safety hazard to not have a stop sign.”

To add to that stress, the OFSC sign audit team will be coming through the area sometime in the next couple of weeks.

“If they find discrepancies or problems with our signage, then they will close our trails,” she said. “On the OFSC interactive website, you will see that trail will go red, until we can get a new sign up.”

Volunteers are completely responsible for the signs. Since many hold full-time jobs and don’t complete the grooming until later on at night, the theft of signs poses a major safety risk for snowmobilers.

Anyone with information on the thefts could receive an award of up to $2,000 from Crime Stoppers. To report a crime, call at 1-800-222-8477 or visit www.valleytips.ca.

Story continues in the January 26 issue of The Valley Gazette.