End of a free ride? Snowmobile federation wants other trail users to pay up

Operators of ATVs and dirt bikes aren't pulling their own weight on provincial trailways, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation. 

Dirt bikers and ATV drivers should pay up for the benefits they are receiving from the snowmobile federation's grooming of the provincial T'Railway system, according to Ben Fitzgerald, the head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation.

"At the end of the day, there are 13,000 snowmobilers that are covering the burden for bridges, vegetation, signage, culverts, washouts," Fitzgerald told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

"Why should snowmobilers have to pay for it alone when, you know, there's probably 100,000 vehicles on the island that are venturing into our great outdoors?"

Listen to Ben Fitzgerald's interview with the Corner Brook Morning Show in the player below.

Fitzgerald says the federation's grooming of the trails brings lots of benefits for summer users — they clear vegetation from the trails, for example, and helped put up funding to fix the Terra Nova bridge.

"We do so much more with the trail pass money than just the [snow] groomer," he said.

But while snowmobile users are required to buy passes to use the groomed trails, ATV users aren't charged a fee for use of the trail in the summer.

"Whether it's a cabin owner in the area, whether it's a quad rider, a side-by-side or a motorbike, there's just no contribution from anybody else," said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald says if the group got more money from summer users, they would be able to grow the trail system and make it more attractive for tourists.

Right now, he says the T'Railway system is only a few maintenance issues away from being in a "vulnerable state."

Fitzgerald said the fee for ATV users does not have to be expensive — a $20 user fee, for example, would generate lots of money for the T'Railway, he said.

"Without government support, it'll be an uphill battle. With government support, and all parties at the table, I don't think it's a tough sell."