As I write this report in late January of 2021, we are all anxiously waiting for Mother Nature to bring us some of the precious white stuff we all crave so much at this time of the year. As January slips by and no snow on the ground it does remind me of the winter of 2015 when the snow did not arrive till January 27th of that year and we ended up with close to 18 feet over the next 6 weeks. Hopefully, the white stuff will soon arrive.
I have to begin this report on a sad note, the Prince Edward Island Snowmobile Association recently lost a long-time family member Mr. Gerry Martin of Tignish. Mr. Martin was President of the PEISA for several years and was very instrumental in the conversion of the old CN railway system into our existing snowmobile trail system. Gerry worked tirelessly on our behalf with the government for us to gain winter access to this major connection of our trail system. Gerry was also heavily involved in the introduction of our Trail Warden Program and a huge supporter of mandatory permits. In 2012 Gerry was honored as the only Prince Edward Islander to be given the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award Medal for his dedication and support of snowmobiling on PEI. Gerry was also one of 4 original PEISA Hall of Fame inductees in 2015. I am sure I speak for all snowmobilers on PEI when I send my condolences to his family and thank him for his many contributions over the years.
I would like to talk a little about what has taken place at the PEISA level in the past year. First of all, after much deliberation and debate at the board level it was decided that the PEISA would purchase a 4th groomer (called Island # 1) for the 2020 season. We had reached a new agreement with our two grooming partners (Springside Snowmobile Association and Kensington and Area Snowmobile Association) to try and reduce the kilometers of trail each organization was doing to allow us to get over the trail system as quickly as possible after each significant snowfall and to better keep our trails maintained on a constant basis for our members. The extra groomer allowed the two clubs to be responsible for less than 100 kms of trail each and by having a fourth groomer the PEISA groomer fleet is only averaging 165 kms each compared to the previous average of 220 kms per groomer. This worked out very well last season when snow conditions were good for most of the season and two groomers put on close to 500 hours each and the other two were close to 600 hours each. Most of the feedback from membership has been very positive about the new addition and it has resulted in quicker trail maintenance times.
This past year with all of us dealing with Covid-19 has been a challenge for sure. We were forced to close the trails about 10 days earlier than normal last March, only because of the uncertainty at the time. It was all new to us and the decision was based on as safety issue. This season we have been given the green light by Health Department to do our trail grooming with some added precautions and safety measures for our groomer operators. We all must be careful to obey the rules about people gathering at the various club houses on our trail system.
Due to Covid-19 issues last Spring we were forced to cancel our Annual General Meeting. At this time, I would like to acknowledge and thank several of our board members who have stepped away. Marlana Oliver came on to the board as a youth member and was later elected as a regular member from the west. She was a very active promotor of snowmobiling in the western end of the province and her voice has been missed.
Another board member who has been missed was a member for over 12 years and served many roles with the PEISA. Daryl Lewis was one of the members from the Central grooming area and served as groomer chairman for that area for many years. He was the guy that got the call at 3:00 am from the groomer operator with a problem and had to get out of his own bed to either go rescue or go help in any way he could. Daryl was responsible for signage and did a lot of work on the Northside trail
Stephen Shaw is another long- time board member from the Central area who served on many committee’s and was one of the leaders in the development of the Northside Trail system (Route 212) by working with many of the private land owners to gain access to their land for this new trail. Stephen’s unique perspective on issues will be missed.
The final recent departure from the board is our longest serving member. Linda Constable has served for more than 20 years as the Springside representative on the PEISA. She has held many roles including Secretary-Treasurer and mostly recently as Vice-President of the provincial organization. Linda has been for many years, one of our leaders at the National and International level for our organization and has been the voice of PEI at the National table. Linda was one of the driving forces and hardest workers when the International Snowmobile Congress was held here on PEI. Linda’s knowledge and experience will be missed by both the PEISA and the Springside Snowmobile Association.
With the departures of great people brings opportunities for new members. We would like to welcome to the board David Shaw and Troy Burke as the new Central members. Tyler Buchanan as the new Western representative and Allan Lowther from Springside.
As a board we are entrusted to look after interests of all members and I can tell you there are many discussions held when any tough decisions are made. One of the most difficult decisions to make each year is setting the permit price. We are the only provincial organization that has been able to keep our permit price the same for the last 8 years. Our regular permit price now is $174.00 (same since 2013) plus HST which brings it to $200.00. We are so pleased to be able to hold this price and with the exception of 2016 when HST was introduced and the price moved to $200.00 only because of additional tax.
When the snow finally does arrive this season, you will see big changes in our signage at all major intersections. Each intersection will have a sign indicating Route #’s, business partners and communities in each direction. We are very pleased with this venture and we know it will only improve your experience on our trail system. We did this as a joint venture with ACOA, provincial government and ourselves. We look forward to feedback from our members.
We are in the process of launching a new and more informative website and are excited about the new look which is going to be easier for members to have input and suggestions. Look for that to be up and running in the next few weeks.
One of our most pressing concerns at the board level is the constant phone calls and messages from private citizens over trespassing by snowmobilers on places they should not be. The small amount of snow we had early in the month led to many of these trespassing cases. There was not enough snow on the regular trail system and many snowmobilers were traveling off the designated trail sections which may have consisted of a plowed or potato field. By leaving these designated trails (perhaps to travel on a winter wheat or another non designated field with more snow) has led to many complaints from land owners. This could eventually cost us permission to travel on private lands which are now a very important part of our trail. Please respect people’s property and only travel on designated trails.
As we wait for the snow to come so we can finally get the season going I would like to thank all of our loyal members and avid snowmobilers for their continued support. To all the board members also a big thank-you for your dedication and volunteer hours you put in on a regular basis. To all of our business partners, we really appreciate your support and I encourage all members to support these businesses as much as possible throughout the year. Thank-you all and safe sledding in 2021.
Dale Hickox President of the Prince Edward Island Snowmobile Association