P.E.I. Snowmobiling Association given cheque for $119,000 to help buy new grooming equipment
© Guardian photo by Dave Stewart
Rural Development Minister Ron MacKinley, left, hands Dale Hickox, president of the P.E.I. Snowmobiling Association, a cheque for $119,000 Thursday to help the association groom its trails this winter. Getting ready to go for a ride is snowmobiling enthusiast Micaela Thompson.
CORNWALL — The provincial government is giving Island snowmobilers a smoother ride on the trails this winter.
Rural Development Minister Ron MacKinley handed the P.E.I. Snowmobiling Association a cheque for $119,000 here on Thursday to help the group provide safe snowmobiling trails.
The money is coming out of the Island Community Fund and will be used to buy new trail grooming equipment with the association contributing an additional $178,000.
“This is huge for snowmobiling on Prince Edward Island,’’ Dale Hickox, president of the snowmobilers association, told The Guardian in an interview.
“We’ve been doing our grooming over the last number of years and our equipment has been getting very outdated.
“There’s been a lot of problems and it makes it hard to do what we want to do — to have our trails ready for our members.’’
There are approximately 1,100 kilometres of groomed trails on the Island.
Five separate clubs in the association take care of the grooming using five different grooming rigs.
The association took over the trails on Thursday but it’ll likely be a while before anyone is using them considering the bare ground.
“We are in one of the most fortunate places in North America because our rail bed is the big part of our trail. There’s no rocks, no trees, nothing on it so we can get away with eight inches of snow,’’ Hickox said. “Places away from here, they need a foot or two of snow.’’
MacKinley said the Island’s unique trail system is a hit with snowmobilers off-Island, too, making the sport worth $3.5 million to the economy every year.
“When you groom 1,100 kilometres of trails, it’s not cheap and our system is based on a user-pay system,’’ MacKinley said.
“It’s a huge expense (for the membership). This (financial contribution) enables us to get rid of the old pieces of equipment that had people pretty discouraged.’’
There are between 1,500 and 1,700 members of the P.E.I. Snowmobilers Association and the money to groom the trails comes out of their pockets.
Hickox said the popularity of the sport has soared with improvements in snowmobile technology.
“When you were driving (years ago) you didn’t know if you could make it to the backfield or two miles down the road. It was that much of a challenge. Today, these machines have 10,000 to 15,000 miles on them, they have four-stroke technology (and) a lot of them have the same motor as small cars. Some of them are pushing 180 horsepower.’’
Just before MacKinley participated in a photo op at a snowmobile dealership Thursday, the minister said it’s not hard to figure out why snowmobiling is growing in popularity.
“It’s the best way to enjoy winter.’’