What Is The OFSC and Where Did It Come From?
(Barrie, ON: September 23, 2021) – As a snowmobiler, why should you read this article? Because it’s all too easy to take the OFSC trail system for granted. Our trails seem to appear by magic every winter, but 30,000 kilometres don’t just happen by chance. So we hope that this snapshot of what really goes on behind the scenes at the OFSC will help you better understand and appreciate why we became and need to stay well organized…
Annual General Meeting
The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) held its 54th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on September 18th. For the second consecutive year, we adapted the event to a virtual platform, adding special entertainment on Facebook Live the night before. A strong showing of delegates from over 85% of our member 183 snowmobile clubs attended AGM, which included an “Ask The Executive Committee” information session and our business meeting, hosted by Chair Harold McAdam.
AGM provides the opportunity for club volunteers to discuss current issues, share ideas and participate in business decisions. On Saturday, delegates provided direction to the OFSC Board of Governors through formal motions and approved 2021-22 board members including new District 1 Governor Peter Asquini (for the retiring Bruce Robinson). Other new confirmations included new 2nd Vice President Zen Slipenkyj (for the retiring Marc Lapalme) and Treasurer David Priebe (for the retiring Neil Nicholson). Thanks to Marc, Neil and Bruce for their volunteer service from everyone at the OFSC!
While our two virtual AGM’s have been very well attended, the OFSC is addressing the online limitations of being unable to meet in person or for a longer timeframe. To keep members more involved and solicit ongoing input, we introduced virtual town hall meetings throughout the year, as well as workshops and online webinars, with two town hall series completed prior to AGM.
The OFSC is fundamentally a grassroots, volunteer driven federation, so AGM is an important, recurring landmark for organized snowmobiling in Ontario. But much more occurs year round behind the scenes that you should know. Let’s start our walk-thru of organized snowmobiling with a little history…
Snowmobilers Decided To get Organized
When Bombardier started selling snowmobiles in 1959, there were no organized snowmobile trails, so recreational riders just rode wherever they could. They quickly realized that random riding was not only risky and inconvenient, but it was also creating a considerable backlash from local residents and property owners that was giving this new activity a bad name.
First Snowmobile Clubs: By 1967, recreational riders looking for easier and more acceptable places to ride had formed clubs in many communities. Existing separately and independently from each other, these first snowmobile clubs had two primary purposes. First, to organize and maintain safe and legal local trails for their members to ride, and second, to serve as social hubs for local snowmobilers to connect and ride with friends and family.
First Organized Trails: With the underlying premise of mutual cooperation and respect, club volunteers reached out to their neighbours and friends for permission to place seasonal trails across private property for the exclusive use of their club members. While many of these members volunteered to maintain their club trails, many clubs also started charging a permit fee to cover hard costs like equipment and signs. Compared to the previous uncertainty and illegality of random riding, most snowmobilers agreed that this new set up was a big improvement, and that snowmobilers helping snowmobilers was the way to go.
Growing Pains: With its increasing popularity, snowmobiling was soon bursting at the seams. More snowmobilers began riding more often and beyond their local club boundaries, buying multiple permits from various clubs to do so. Snowmobiling was also beginning to attract attention from various government ministries and agencies who wanted to connect with the snowmobiling community. Club volunteers soon realized that operating in totally independent silos wasn’t good enough to secure the organized snowmobiling that we now enjoy.
Provincial Association Formed: In the same way that snowmobilers had worked together to form their local clubs, volunteers decided to work together for the common good of snowmobiling. In 1967, 10 clubs united to form a volunteer-led, not-for-profit association of clubs they named the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC). Its purpose was to act as the unified voice for member clubs and provide provincial leadership for snowmobile trails in Ontario.
Today’s OFSC Operates Provincially in 3 Tiers
As its name indicates, The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs works on behalf of its member organizations. As everything in today’s society has become increasingly complex, organized snowmobiling has adapted. Over the years, member snowmobile clubs have approved organizational changes into three tiers of operations to deliver an integrated, inter-connected, provincial snowmobile trail system. Today, organized snowmobiling is supported by programs, services and assistance offered through local clubs, districts and the provincial association. Each of these tiers contributes towards a common goal and together, they comprise “the OFSC”.
The Backbone of Organized Snowmobiling
Although local snowmobile clubs, districts and the provincial federation are separate organizations, these three tiers are the backbone of organized snowmobiling in Ontario. Each entity plays an integral role in what ultimately results in a network of over 30,000 kilometres of snowmobile trails, a fleet of 300 industrial trail groomers, and the generous contributions of 18,000 private landowners and 6,000 volunteers. Together, this snowmobile team navigates the labyrinth of government, industry, business, tourism and stakeholder relations necessary to make it all happen.
So when referring to “the OFSC”, you’re actually talking about all the people and all the entities involved in the “organized” part of organized snowmobiling. From the folks who prep the trails to your local groomer operators, and from volunteers who make decisions at club meetings to those who act provincially to support their efforts, the mission is to work together to deliver a provincial snowmobile trail system. Yes in 1967, local clubs founded the OFSC so snowmobilers could help snowmobilers – and that concept is still our focus heading into the winter of 2022!
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