Flex Trails Provide Permit Buyers With Options For Trail Riding This Winter
• Trails To Ride 2021 Plan Components
• Pandemic & OFSC Trails
• Flex Trails & How They Work Under Re-Opening Framework
• Do Your Part, Ride Smart
(Barrie, ON: November 26, 2020) – In prior releases, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) announced and updated its comprehensive Trails To Ride 2021 plan. It focuses on working through these challenging times to deliver the best trail riding experiences on as many trails as possible this winter with the cooperation of all snowmobilers.
This release updates our previous one on October 22nd. It reflects the new Ontario re-opening framework that took effect on November 7th. Since then, several public health regions have moved into a higher restriction level, but to date only Toronto & Peel are in the Grey-Lockdown level. Click here for details on the current status of public health regions across the province.
Components of OFSC Plan: As previously reported, Trails To Ride 2021 includes several flexible, complimentary and integrated strategies for province-wide trail preparations, groomer fleet operations, and pandemic response for the health and safety of volunteers, snowmobilers, landowners and snowbelt communities, with enhanced communications for all stakeholders. The OFSC pandemic response includes Flex Trails (see below) to provide permit holders with as many alternative trail riding opportunities as possible if needed during these uncertain times.
Impact of Pandemic Changes on OFSC Trails: With Ontario’s new Re-Opening Framework and more recently tightened pandemic restrictions in 14 out of 34 of Ontario’s public health regions, some snowmobilers are wondering if these changes will have any impact on overall trail availability this winter.
As a pre-season test, the OFSC has applied the restrictions to our trail operations to help predict what trails would be able to remain open in a safe and compliant manner when winter actually arrives. Snowmobilers will benefit in season from this exercise under the Flex Trails approach detailed below. Here’s what we found based on the present status of the Re-Opening Framework…
- Grey-Lockdown Level: In the locked down Toronto and Peel public health regions, there are no OFSC trails, but residents are urged to restrict travel outside of their region for essential purposes only.
- Red-Control & Orange-Restrict Levels: Public health regions in the Red-Control Level (Durham & Waterloo) and Orange-Restrict Level (Huron Perth, Simcoe Muskoka District, Southwestern and Windsor-Essex County) require stringent regulations that stop short of lock down. But our exercise shows that for any of these that have trail and grooming operations, delivering trails would still be achievable. Additionally, if this was winter and any OFSC trails were now available to ride within any of these Red or Orange regions, local residents would still be able to do so. The only impact of Red-Control and Orange-Restrict on OFSC trails would be on inter-regional riding. Accordingly, connecting trails located outside of one of these regions, but that lead into and out of it, would be temporarily unavailable for the duration these levels are in effect. Meanwhile, trail riding within or between all unaffected neighbouring regions would continue as usual.
- Yellow-Protect & Green-Prevent Levels: Public health regions in the Yellow-Protect Level (Chatham-Kent, Eastern Ontario, Grey Bruce, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington, Peterborough and Thunder Bay) and Green-Prevent Level (remaining 20 public health regions) can continue operations within the recommended guidelines and snowmobilers are required to adhere to the general health protocols in place across Ontario, but riding would continue to be available on all their OFSC trails.
Flex Trails: These new developments and any possibility of future restrictions by public health regions in primary snowbelt areas is a key component of planning for Trails To Ride 2021. The OFSC has developed flexible options for trail riding this season to be implemented only if districts and clubs are required to do so in cooperation with their public health regions. This Flex Trails strategy includes regional and local riding alternatives for any area with limited restrictions that might temporarily impact trails or trail services, such as those just described in our pre-season test.
How Flex Trails Work: For example, Flex Trail options could include trails within a public health region being available only for local residents on a temporary basis. Or Flex Trails could enable regional or inter-regional riding to continue on certain designated Trans Ontario Provincial (TOP) Trails through less populated areas, while temporarily shutting down others. Alternatively, some snowbelt communities might consider the Flex Trail option to reduce traffic locally in some locations while still enabling riders to enjoy other adjacent trails. Through this Flex Trail approach, as many trails as possible in the 30,000-kilometre OFSC network would remain available for permit buyers to ride.
NEW – Taking The Guesswork Out Of Flex Trails: It should be noted that implementing Flex Trail options relates to public health region boundaries, which are different from OFSC district boundaries, which can be confusing for everyone.
To assist OFSC Districts in making timely and accurate Flex Trail decisions and for internal use only, the OFSC has recently added a new “COVID Per Health Region” layer to the backend of the Interactive Trail Guide. This direct feed from a government reporting tool enables our districts to see all public health region boundaries to more easily determine what trails feed into or out of a region(s) in their district if it goes into either the Grey-Lockdown or Red-Control Levels for a period of time.
Do Your Part, Ride Smart: As you can see, we are making every effort to deliver the best possible trail riding this winter. But to help out, we’re asking every snowmobiler to do their part to prevent transmission of the virus on every ride. While we all know that the riding itself is relatively safe, the risk increases considerably whenever we ride together in a tow vehicle or stop along the trail.
So, everyone needs to practice socially responsible behaviours when interacting with each other or visiting trail accessible services and communities. Not doing so could result in closed services, limited access to communities, and possibly even trail restrictions during the season. That’s why the OFSC launched Ride Smart 2021, a common sense approach to help snowmobilers work together to keep the fun happening!
Looking Ahead To Winter: No one is happy about the new pandemic restrictions currently in place in some regions, but the silver lining may well be that taking tougher action now will result in fewer trail riding limitations when trails are ready to ride after the New Year. In addition, Flex Trails should still provide permit buyers with ample opportunities to hit the snow.
Meanwhile, snowmobilers are assured that the OFSC is keeping a close watch on the evolving pandemic situation, while working closely with snowbelt public health regions and our districts and clubs to respond as and when needed with the Trails To Ride 2021 goal of delivering the best possible trail riding experiences this winter. Accordingly, the OFSC will continue to communicate all changes and status updates to permit holders regularly and frequently through our website, Interactive Trail Guide, Facebook page, weekly newsletter and Go Snowmobiling App alerts.
The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) is a volunteer led, not for profit association that provides the voice for organized snowmobiling in Ontario. OFSC snowmobile trails managed by 200 community based, member clubs generate up to $3.3 billion in economic activity in the province each year.