UPDATE – Sledders seek grant to up their game

The Eagle Valley’s snowmobile club and grooming society want to take their industry to the next level

Craig Schopfer enjoys the Sicamous area's backcountry on his sled.

The Eagle Valley’s snowmobile club and grooming society want to take their industry to the next level, but are unable to do so without help from the district and the community.

It may have not been their intent when they arranged to appear before council at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, but representatives of the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club and the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Grooming Society wound up explaining why they are seeking a grant in aid to the tune of $15,000 from the District of Sicamous.

Coun. Fred Busch told club president Dan Morin, grooming society president Tim Corless and general manager Gord Bushell, that when the grooming society started, there was some projection as to when it would be self-sustaining. Busch said he was concerned about the seeming “never ending parade of asking for money.”

“You’re now 12 years into your life and you’re still not self-sustaining, though your membership is up and you’re collecting more tolls… is there any projection on when you’ll be self-sustaining?” asked Busch, adding only a selective number of businesses seem to profit from benefit from the snowmobile industry.

Regarding sustainability of the grooming society, Bushell said operations could be sustainable right now provided things remain status quo.

“We can survive,” said Bushell. “We may not do as much maintenance, we might not do any improvements to the parking lot areas.”

Bushell and Morin explained that Sicamous, while recognized by snowmobilers as being among the best areas for sledding in the province, is currently at something of a stalemate. The industry is incapable of further expanding without first dealing with parking limitations at the area’s four major grooming areas, Queest, Owl Head, Blue River and Eagle Pass.

“If you look at Owl Head, Queest and Blue, at every one of those we have some sort of parking-related issues,” said Morin. “We would be looking for some support as those issues come to the forefront.”

Grant funding, Bushell explained, could easily go towards improving parking areas, as well as providing services sledders are seeking when they come to Sicamous. He noted that over the Christmas break, snowmobilers were coming to Sicamous from Revelstoke where they were finding lineups “200-vehicles deep just to get into the parking lots. Unfortunately, when they arrived in Sicamous, the lack of parking/services had them doing a u-turn, and going back to Revelstoke.

“We need you to help us pave the way for more parking,” said Bushell, suggesting the district might also be able to help find other funding sources, grants, etc. “We can’t really do anything without the district. Most of the areas where we are is in district property, other than the ones out in Malakwa. We can use that money to enhance the Owl Head parking lot…

“It’s tough to see all those sledders going back to Revelstoke because there’s services there. We don’t have a lot of services open year-round here. We need to work with the community to try to get everybody onboard if you want to take this to the next level.”

Past district grants received by the society and club have gone into the maintenance of the two trail groomers, which have seen between 12,000 and 15,000 hours use and will eventually require replacement.

Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area E director Rhona Martin, who was at the meeting, spoke favourably about the club and society’s work, but agreed there is further work needed to address the parking issues. Couns. Charlotte Hutchinson and Don Richardson and Mayor Darrell Trouton were also supportive of funding the club, noting the industry is an economic driver that is well marketed through club and society volunteers.

“It’s unbelievable when you get up there and see what these guys have done… I commend you guys for your efforts and your work,” said Trouton. “And like Gord said, if we decided not to move forward with a grant in aid in supporting this, it would hurt the community. It’s an opportunity for the community to grow. These guys have already done the majority of the legwork on a volunteer basis.”

This year the club’s members have used the four groomed trail systems around 1,900 times, while another 7,500 uses were counted through the sale of day passes.

 

Council deferred 2012 grant in aid deliberations to a future meeting.

 

 

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