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Summerside weighing snowmobile trail options

Snowmobiler Cameron Newman gasses up his sled in Kinkora before navigating around Summerside last week.
Snowmobiler Cameron Newman gasses up his sled in Kinkora before navigating around Summerside last week. - Alison Jenkins
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

Their bellies full from the meal they had just bought at a local restaurant, two men gassed up their snowmobiles at Kinkora’s Big Dog Convenience on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 15. 

Cameron Newman, of New Haven, and his buddy Riley McCourt, of Nine Mile Creek, made sure to get what they needed before heading towards Summerside because their options are not great there. 

Newman said he wishes there’s was a good trail through Summerside to make it easier to stop and get gas or other essentials 

“Even a drink of water. It’s just nice to have that stop,” he said. 

Summerside city council is wrestling with whether to offer snowmobilers a warm welcome or leave them out in the cold.  

The issue came up at a Jan. 12 meeting, when some councillors said they had received complaints from constituents about snowmobiles on the Confederation Trail in the city. 

In general, the Islandwide Confederation Trail network is reserved for snowmobiles during the winter, Summerside is one of a handful of communities that does not allow them on sections of the trail that go through municipal borders. 

This has led to confusion and the skirting of the rules in the past by some snowmobilers. In fact, the city received more complaints than usual about motorized vehicles on its section of the trail in 2020, prompting it to have the trail gates at either end of the city closed for the winter of 2021. 

ALTERNATE ROUTE

JP Desrosiers, director of community services, said he has been in contact with the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association and it has assured him that there are alternate routes available specifically for snowmobilers to follow the rules and bypass Summerside. 

JP Desrosiers is the director of community services for the City of Summerside. - SaltWire file
JP Desrosiers is the director of community services for the City of Summerside. - SaltWire file

 

“We’re still seeing snowmobilers accessing the trails quite frequently. They’re going around the gates, going through private property. So, I don’t know if I made a mistake by saying ‘close the gates’ because now we’re pushing the situation away from the trails. But in a situation where we are trying to keep walkers and skiers and fat-bikers safe on the trails, that was the attempt,” said Desrosiers. 

Some councillors also noted that they had heard from snowmobile-owning residents of the city who want to be able to drive their machines off their property, out of the community and onto the proper trail network.

Part of the discussion revolved around the potential economic benefits of welcoming snowmobiles into the city. 

Mayor Basil Stewart said he has seen areas of New Brunswick that are packed with snowmobilers and ATVers, spending a lot of money on food, gas and other supplies. 

“We’re talking here about a way to get them out of town, but is there a way to get them back here in some way, shape or form, to contribute to the economy,” said Stewart. 

Desrosiers said he would be reaching out to the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association to try to come up with a potential compromise and report back to council at a later date. 

In the meantime, councillors asked that the city start trying to get the word out more through its social media channels that the trail gates to the city are closed for now and snowmobilers should be following the routes available to go around the city proper. 

P.E.I. Snowmobile Association president Dale Hickox said the association worked for years to develop a bypass around Summerside, making agreements with landowners and the provincial government to allow the snowmobiles to share part of the roundabout at the north end of Granville Street.

P.E.I. Snowmobile Association president Dale Hickox, left, and vice-president Grant Peters pose for a photo near the Confederation Trail in Winsloe last week. Hickox said the association worked for years to develop a bypass around Summerside, making agreements with landowners and the provincial government to allow the snowmobiles to share part of the roundabout at the north end of Granville Street. - SaltWire file
P.E.I. Snowmobile Association president Dale Hickox, left, and vice-president Grant Peters pose for a photo near the Confederation Trail in Winsloe last week. Hickox said the association worked for years to develop a bypass around Summerside, making agreements with landowners and the provincial government to allow the snowmobiles to share part of the roundabout at the north end of Granville Street. - SaltWire file

 

“As the city grows, it’s nearly impossible to get through,” said Hickox.

That’s why two years ago, the main trail changed to stay north of Route 2. 

“There’s signs up to say the trail’s closed. The trail is marked and it’s clear the city is not open to snowmobiles,” said Hickox.

But he’s responsive to Stewart’s suggestion to welcome the sleds to town.

In 2014, the association organized an event that drew 140 snowmobiles downtown to the Loyalist Country Inn for four days. A section of the trail was set aside for two weeks for the event.

Hickox said there would have been a great economic benefit to so many “heads on pillows” in Summerside that February.

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