Changing Times for Trail Volunteers (Larry Tucker)
Published on January 27, 2013 in Guest Columns, News & Updates
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Can you believe that the elections are really over? It certainly was a long political campaign season. I hope everyone had a chance to help their candidate and that they did well at the ballot booth. One good thing is that we don’t have to talk about the elections anymore, but we still have much to discuss for our trail system.

This fall I also had occasion to enjoy the Sled Expo at the Big E put on by your Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts. It was a good show, and in case you missed it, there was a very impressive display of small and large grooming equipment. I really want to applaud all the volunteers and especially those that helped bring in the club groomers. They had to give up their valuable time to load the equipment, drive to the Big E, unload, set it up, then reload it and drive it back home again. That’s a whole lot of volunteer hours!

Trail Volunteers
Our trail volunteers are also putting in huge hours, but they are facing tough new challenges from the new dynamics of both public and private land use policies. In years past, trail work involved going out with the crew on weekends and releasing the stress of everyday life by the physical effort in making new trails and clearing the existing ones. Not so in today’s society. Increasingly, time is being spent on face-to-face meetings with land managers, attending conservation commission meetings, negotiating new land easements, and the paperwork associated with these efforts. Wow, seems like this is becoming a “full-time” job!

Land Easements
Easements are one logical step towards helping our trail crews solidify our trial system for the future and SAM has made great strides in laying the groundwork for clubs to implement these easements. SAM has partnered with the Trustees of Reservations to help create a document template from which to work, available at sledmass.com. This effort has also produced assessor type maps with our trail system overlaid for ease of identification. But, creating these easements means our trail crews must spend more time at meetings and on paperwork that they have never been involved with before.

Pursue Recreational Easements
Conservation Restrictions (CR) are increasingly demanding a portion of our volunteer time and have the potential to eliminate some of our trails. This happens when CR’s are created that include wording for “passive recreation only.” How can this be prevented? Stay in communication with your landowners and if land is being considered for a CR ask they include snowmobiles as an approved recreation or even in an easement. Likewise, if the land is being sold, pursue a recreational easement.

Hopefully, we will continue to look for new ways that we can help our trial crews spend less time in meetings and on paperwork so that they can back to what they do best. Thanks, again, to all our trail and grooming teams. And remember: Snowmobilers are Environmentalists.


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