The Day The Snowmobiles Stopped (Randy Toth)
One chilly fall day in the not too distant future, as you prepare for the upcoming snowmobiling season, you will remember that you have not received your state association magazine yet. Muttering something derogatory, you go to the state association’s website only to find a notation from the ISP (Internet Service Provider) that the domain name is now available for sale to any interested parties. Huh?
You Snowmobile Club Has Disbanded!
You call up a friend and ask “What’s up with the state association?” He informs you that last spring they announced that they were disbanding due to lack of volunteer support. “Well exactly what did they ever do for me?” you say. Then you call one of your local club officers only to find that no one volunteered to run for club office and that the current president and vice president had retired and moved south.
Your club has also disbanded and sold your grooming equipment to an out of state club and donated the remaining club money to charity. Your buddy says that the club two towns over is still active and he has joined there, so you decide that you will join there also. He then mentions that the dues have gone way up since the state association is no longer around to provide some much needed grooming money.
You decide you had better go to a club meeting to find out what’s really happening. The club meeting holds a few surprises for you as they discuss their huge loss of former friendly landowners. Apparently when they found out that they were no longer covered by the state association sponsored liability insurance, they immediately revoked permission to ride on their land. You also find out that you can no longer ride from one state property to another because of the lack of private landowner connector trails. “OK,” you say, “I will just ride in my local state forest then.” Of course without your old local club there is no grooming or snowmobile trail maintenance in your local state forest. There is still riding there but only on about 15 miles of unmaintained and ungroomed trails. Furthermore, you no longer have riding access to any food or gas because those connector trails were located on private land.
The next day you read in the paper that snowmobiles are being banned on a number of state lands due to damage caused by wheeled vehicles. Incredibly, no one attended any of the planning meetings and spoke up and defended snowmobiling – which have virtually no negative impact on trails. With no organized opposition, snowmobiles were simply banned along with wheeled vehicles.
There is also a notice that an environmental group is fighting hard to pass a state law banning all internal combustion engines on state land to protect the health of native miniature snails. Who do you turn to? “I’ll just call my local representative or senator,” you decide. The call goes something like “Hi, I’m Joe and I like to snowmobile so you need to help me.” The response is something like, “Thank you for calling to express your opinion, we will tell your representative or senator that you called – what organization did you say you were representing?” Now you start to sweat and remember having heard about how to approach your representative or senator from your state association, and you realize that your encounter didn’t just go as you had planned.
Ok, so you and your friends decide your club should hire a lobbyist. Now, just how will you find one and pay for her? Your club will just have to raise lots of money – somehow. Of course you always voted against dues increases on principle in the past. You then remember that in the past, revenue from the state association’s trail passes and Sno-Expo helped fund these key access-related activities. Furthermore, many of your friends said they weren’t going to even join the club until there was rideable snow on the ground, because they remember a year in the past when there wasn’t much snow.
You call some likeminded friends and you all agree to organize to fight these injustices, but you have no clue how to begin. You also start to experience that sinking feeling that it might already be too late. You want to turn to the guys who have always maintained and groomed the trails for help.
Did you know the average age of an active three-man trail crew in the western part of the state, who maintains snowmobile trails on a very large tract of state land now, is over 70 years old? No answer when you call. You call your friend back only to learn that two of the three have retired from trail work and the other is no longer around. Now what? Where are all of the younger folks who were supposed to take over? You then cringe at the thought that you personally have said many times, “I’ll help when I get around to it,” but you never did.
Well, you can always drive to nearby states where they used to have large trail systems. Maybe they’re still in operation?
To get your mind off of this mess, you then decide to drive out of state to attend a snow show. Your wife reminds you that with gas prices at $6 a gallon you can’t afford to, since you will need to save the money to go snowmobiling. OK, you decide to go to the smaller snow show in your own state. Darn! – the lack of volunteers and support caused it to fold a couple of years ago. Remember how you and your friends said that there were bigger and better shows elsewhere, so why should you support your local one?
If you think that this scenario can’t happen, just sit back, put your feet up, do nothing and wait. It may now be later than you think!
Perhaps someone will be kind enough to send me an email in Florida and tell me how it all turns out. Meanwhile, I’ll be out riding around Tampa Bay on my personal watercraft and volunteering with the senior section of the local Personal Watercraft Club. Happy Riding!