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Northern Drifters keeping trails in tip top shape

Ryan Patey is one of the members of the Northern Drifters Snowmobile Club, and has plenty of experience on the trails.
Ryan Patey is one of the members of the Northern Drifters Snowmobile Club, and has plenty of experience on the trails.

On a beautiful winter day on the Northern Peninsula, it’s quite common to see people on snowmobiles.

The winter season can last up to six months in the St. Anthony area. With snow being readily available, people spend their times on the many trails in the region.

That is why organizations like the Northern Drifters Snowmobiling Club are so active.

The group has a nine-member executive and several other members that discuss ideas, problems and events for local snowmobilers. The club represents the area from St. Anthony to Main Brook, Straitsview, Raleigh and around the St. Anthony Bight loop.

The winter season can last up to six months in the St. Anthony area. With snow being readily available, people spend their times on the many trails in the region.

That is why organizations like the Northern Drifters Snowmobiling Club are so active.

The group has a nine-member executive and several other members that discuss ideas, problems and events for local snowmobilers. The club represents the area from St. Anthony to Main Brook, Straitsview, Raleigh and around the St. Anthony Bight loop.

The groomer is operated several times a week to ensure all trails are accessible and safe.

One of the responsibilities of the organization is grooming the local trails.

Safety is a priority for the members, as many noted in the weekly meeting on Jan. 30.

In a region like the Northern Peninsula, there’s plenty of wilderness. The trails are used frequently, but there are still many unmarked and ungroomed locations to take a snowmobile.

The club advises against it, saying that sticking to the trails is not just for one’s own safety, but for the safety of others out snowmobiling.

“If you’re going off the trail, just make sure you’re looking (for oncoming traffic) when you’re going back,” said club secretary Kristen Mitchemore.

Several incidents have been experienced and reported where snowmobiles have had near misses with others because they were not looking while coming back on the trail.

“You should be treating it like a four-way stop,” said Steve Sheppard.

Another concern that everyone in the group had experienced or heard concerns about was speeding.

Grooming coordinator Rod Squires recalled a situation where he had to react quickly because of other drivers.

He called it a “near death experience.”

While on the trails, six sleds with young drivers were speeding along. The last two, Squires said, were up on two skis.

“I was just trying to get by them,” he said.

Most frequenters of the trails are known. So after the incident, parents were notified.

Those aged 13 and over can legally drive a snowmobile alone, according to vehicle laws in the province, but the trails have different regulations. Snowmobilers must be at least 16 years old to operate a sled on the trails, unless an adult accompanies them.

Speeding incidents will be enforced, said club president Sherry Squires, but noted the group can only do so much.

“All we can do is put reminders out there,” she said. “We take care of the trail, groom it and prepare people to go snowmobiling.”

There are enforcement officers out on the trails, and the rules and regulations are being taken seriously. The provincial government departments of forestry and wildlife have been frequenting the trails to enforce the rules.

Group members were insistent users of the trail respect speed limits.

Some of the other things the group provides are warm-up shelters along the trails.

Wood is delivered to the individual warm up shelters by volunteers, so those on the trails have a chance to warm up.

There are three shelters — four-way stop, Saunders Mill and Gunner’s Cove. Volunteers bring wood into the shelters so visitors can warm up, but there have been a few situations where the purpose was ignored.

On the club’s Facebook page, public relations representative Kim Simms posted a reminder.

“Shelters are not meant for a hand out,” she said. “It’s intended for those who purchased trail passes to stop for a warm up. Please keep our shelters clean and tidy, garbage picked up and lights off when not in use.”

Besides providing groomed trails and warm up shelters, the club also encourages activities and interaction.

A poker run will be taking place in the coming weeks, and the group is also planning a trip to Main Brook for late March.

Several snowmobilers stop at one of three warm up shelters in the Northern Drifters region.

Trail passes

Sherry and Rod Squires noted after the meeting that passes are required to use the trail system.

“We encourage all snowmobilers to get their trail pass,” Sherry Squires said.

Passes are available in single day, three-day, one week and season passes. They can be picked up at The Outdoor Shop, Maurice’s Service Centre, Byrne’s Family Store, Hedderson’s Store or on NLSF.org (Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation website).

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