Island snowmobile trail plan upset by landowners opting out

EASTERN MANITOULIN—With a fresh dump of snow across Manitoulin, minds turn to thoughts of winter activities, snowmobiling chief among them. For some enthusiasts on the east end, particularly Little Current, this could prove to be a difficult task as key parcels of land have been removed from the trail system linking Little Current to central and southern Manitoulin.

As it stands now, snowmobilers leaving from Little Current can access the “lagoon” trail from that community to Morphet’s Sideroad then along the trail to Burnett’s Sideroad. After that, however, there is no place to go. The Snowdusters Snowmobile Club is working hard to try and change that with an upcoming meeting with Northeast Town staff this Friday, December 16.

One of the parcels in land in question belongs to Green Bay farmer Bruce Wood.

As was reported earlier this year, Mr. Wood, as well as some other landowners on Manitoulin, took exception with Bill 100, Supporting Ontario Trails Act, but had his worries quelled following a June meeting held in Mindemoya by the Manitoulin Snowdusters Snowmobile Club with representation by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs and Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha. What the meeting did not do, however, was change his mind when it came to opening his property back up for trail use.

“I never said I was going to (permit snowmobile use). They kept pressuring and I finally said no,” Mr. Wood told The Expositor on Monday. He added that while Bill 100 is no longer an issue, “it brought everything to a head.”

Mr. Wood cited concerns with groups, such as the Niagara Biosphere Conservancy, coming onto his property and, in effect, causing trouble. Allowing no one to cross completely eliminates the problem, he explained.

“Why would I take the chance?” he questioned, adding that he would not be changing his mind.

Mr. Wood noted that someone had once asked him what he got out of having snowmobile trails cross his property. “’Nothing’,” he had responded.

“It took me awhile to make my decision—I did a lot of thinking on it,” he said. Mr. Wood said that while he realizes the benefits of snowmobiling to the Island economy, the benefits do not outweigh his risk.

Honora Bay property owner Doug Hore has also pulled his land from being used as a direct result of Mr. Wood’s decision.

He explained that his property abuts Mr. Wood’s, and that without his neighbour’s property, it leaves snowmobilers at a dead end—a fact he wasn’t comfortable with.

“I’m not trying to be mean or anything,” Mr. Hore told this newspaper. “But where else would they (snowmobilers) go? I feel really bad. It’s (the snowmobile trails) a good thing for Manitoulin.”

Mr. Hore said that he had no problem with Bill 100 or snowmobile trails whatsoever and that if Mr. Wood had a change of heart, he would reverse his decision too.

Other key landowners who have also removed their lands from the trail system are Roy Bayer on Indian Mountain Road in Sheguiandah as well as a group of southern Ontario hunters whose land is located near the Bayer property.

Northeast Town CAO Dave Williamson confirmed that he, along with manager of public works Gary May, will be meeting with Snowdusters representatives this Friday, going over unopened municipal road allowances that could be of use to help join pieces of trail that can still be utilized by members.

The Snowdusters will have to act quickly, though, as ultimately the decision about letting the Snowdusters use any unopened road allowances falls to council and their final meeting of the year is next Tuesday, December 20.

As for the Snowdusters other trouble spot, Fraser Road in Billings Township, Brad Middleton, Snowdusters spokesperson, said it appeared that the trail would be open for use this winter.

While Bill 100 does not appear to be a factor in the landowners’ decisions to pull their land, Mr. Middleton explained that “OFSC has made it clear that we can tailor a special agreement to meet the individual needs of each landowner.”

The Snowdusters are very concerned that the east end trail troubles could mean a drop in permit sales when the groomer could be up and running by as little as two weeks thanks to Sunday evening’s snowfall, with more expected in the forecast.

Sheguiandah snowmobile enthusiast Bill Orr said he’s disappointed at being landlocked from both perspectives—that of the landowners as well as the Snowdusters. Mr. Orr said he felt the Snowdusters should have been working on alternatives in the summer when they first knew of the problem.

“It’s a big kettle of fish,” he added. “But I’m not going to stop snowmobiling over this and I never would.”


Article Source: Manitoulin Expositor

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