Together We Can Do This!
(Barrie, ON: January 20, 2021) – On January 18th, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) received the news that, effective January 21st, 2021, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (NBPSDHU) is temporarily closing all OFSC trails within its region for the duration of the provincial Stay At Home Order. This district stretches from Parry Sound on the shores of Georgian Bay, east to Mattawa on the Ottawa River, and from Novar north almost to Marten River. It also includes many OFSC clubs and their volunteers in OFSC Districts 10, 11 & 7 who have worked very hard to prep their trails and, in some cases, had commenced grooming operations despite a late start to winter.
In a news release from January 18th, 2021, Dr. Jim Chirico, NBPSDHU Medical Officer of Health, stated that: “I have received many complaints about people travelling from other districts to use the local snowmobile trails, thus putting our district at risk of COVID-19. The OFSC recommends that snowmobilers avoid trailering and travelling to destinations that are outside their health unit region to snowmobile, but people have not taken the direction seriously.”
The OFSC respects North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit’s decision and will comply with its temporary trail closure directive within their region. The OFSC has received permission from the NBPSDHU to proceed with limited grooming operations to facilitate OPP trail monitoring and other EMS support, and so that when trails in the affected districts re-open they are ready to ride. Groomers on trails do not mean trails are open. We remind snowmobilers to refer to the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide (ITG) for trail availability before each ride.
“We understand that this decision is in the best interest of public health and we will cooperate and close the trails in question,” said OFSC CEO Landon French. “We also empathize with our clubs and volunteers who have put many hours into preparing these trails and are disappointed. We look forward to trails in this health district re-opening after February 11th, and want to thank the snowmobilers who have waited so patiently to start riding while following all protocols in their own public health regions.”
The OFSC wants to reassure all snowmobilers that we remain committed to delivering the best possible trail riding experiences this winter. That’s why, on September 24th we announced “Trails To Ride 2021”, our action plan to get trail preparations and operations underway this fall by investing about 75% of 2020 permit revenues. Our strategy achieved the OFSC’s top priority of having the provincial trail system ready to groom for the season. This ongoing plan also includes “Flex Trails”, regional and local riding alternatives that the OFSC asked districts to implement if their area has limited restrictions that might temporarily impact its trails or trail services.
The OFSC was pleased to learn that the Government of Ontario’s Provincial Shutdown announcement (Dec. 21st, 2020) and its second province-wide State-of-Emergency and new Stay At Home Order announcement (Jan. 12th, 2021) allowed snowmobile trails across the province to remain a “permitted recreational activity”. We were also, and continue to be, ready to do our part to ensure “that participants comply with all other provincial and local public health unit directives” in order to help keep as many OFSC trails open as possible through these challenging times.
Over the past few months the OFSC issued important releases following provincial announcements, updating snowmobilers about how to ride safe this year. Recommendations from the OFSC included:
• “NO trailering at this time to destinations that are not in your public health region, especially with companions who are not members of your immediate household.”
• “Avoid travelling outside their local public health regions for early season sledding, and only ride local trails when availability shows as Yellow or Green on the Interactive Trail Guide (ITG).”
• “Snowmobilers with valid trail permits are permitted to access any available (GREEN) or limited availability (YELLOW) trails at this time, but only within the context of the provisions of the Stay At Home Order that allows local recreational exercise from your primary residence.”
The OFSC January 14 release also stated that: “Municipalities and public health units across Ontario have the authority to enact local restrictions in addition to provincial legislation.” So, we urge snowmobilers to abide by our recommendations to help avoid more public health region restrictions.
The OFSC will continue to monitor the situation and share updates about snowmobile trails as they become available to ensure snowmobilers are informed. Please check the OFSC website, Facebook Page and the OFSC newsletter regularly for these updates.
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.