Preservation of Snowmobile Trails is Paramount (Dan Gould)
Published on Sunday, November 17, 2013 in Environment, News & Updates, President's Message
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Trails are a priority, it’s what SAM is all about. One of our biggest challenges is land changing hands. Many landowners sell, donate or conserve land, believing that the snowmobile trail will stay in place. That’s not always the case, even when a state agency is involved. By knowing ahead of time, SAM can be proactive and work to preserve the trail before the transaction. Before is the operative word.

If you hear that land containing a trail is being sold or transferred, contact the SAM office ASAP. Even if you hear a rumor. The same goes for land that abuts a trail. Don’t wait a single minute, get in touch!

If you own land that has a snowmobile trail and would like to protect it, let us know. Matter of fact, if you own land and would like to preserve it in trust, we can help.

For the past few years SAM has been developing a trail preservation program and this year we finally were able to put it to use. None of this would have been possible without cooperation from generous landowners and a growing relationship with several land trusts.

The Franklin Land Trust conserved 46 acres in Leyden known as Zimmerman Farm in 2013. ITS-2 is a key trail managed by the BGL Club that crosses the property. The east-west run in the northern portion of the state connects Northfield to Colrain and trails to the New York and Vermont border.

A staff member from Franklin Land Trust attended a SAM meeting in the spring and explained the importance of the land and the value of conserving the property. SAM was able to partner in the project and the trail is now preserved within the protected property.

Cowls Sawmill & Land Company completed the largest conservation restriction on private land since the 1920’s in a partnership between the Department of Fish and Game, Kestrel Land Trust and the Franklin Land Trust. The deal resulted in the protection of 3,486 acres of working forest land in the towns of Leverett and Shutesbury. That’s a 5.4 square mile area encompassing almost all of Brushy Mountain. The Cowls have always been active in promoting and preserving recreational opportunities and have pledged to keep the snowmobile trail intact.

In the town of Spencer, 350 acres of prime real estate had long been eyed for development. The Sibley and Warner Farms make up one of the most spectacular undeveloped properties in Central Massachusetts. A major snowmobile trail, ITS- 71, has been managed by the Snowbirds Snowmobile Club for decades, losing it would be crippling.

SAM and the Snowbirds worked with Common Ground Land Trust, Mass Audubon, The Town of Spencer and the Greater Worcester Land Trust. The project was daunting. Almost $3 million dollars had to be raised and the town was obligated to spend $700,000. But that had to pass a vote at town meeting.

The Snowbirds sent 1,000 letters to members and businesses in town asking that they not only vote yes but also to open their wallets and donate money. The vote passed, the fundraising was successful and the land and trail are now protected.

In Conway, Roger and Joanne Clapp signed a conservation restriction on approximately 36 acres of their property with the Franklin Land Trust. That property contained a major snowmobile trail.

While the conservation restriction is very clear about the prohibited use of motorized vehicles, the Clapps liked snowmobilers. They understood the importance of outdoor recreation and put specific language for the continued use of snowmobiles. For their thoughtfulness, the Clapp family were honored with the Friend of SAM award at our annual meeting.

SAM has a new perspective, a new set of priorities. In the past we were strictly trail managers, we now consider ourselves part of the preservation community.

As outdoor enthusiasts, it’s important that we realize how much we have in common with land trusts and others who want to preserve open space and recreational trails. Our core beliefs are very much alike.

Snowmobilers need to be involved and keep SAM informed of any opportunities to preserve open space and our trails. We are actively pursuing fundraising opportunities and look forward to building relationships in future conservation projects. We need your help to make this goal a reality.

Photos by Mark Kenyon

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