Opeongo Snowbirds Snowmobile Club seeking public support

·4 min read

The Opeongo Snowbirds Snowmobile Club is looking for volunteers and donations, according to the South Algonquin Business Association’s Dec. 4 newsletter. The club is a group of snowmobile enthusiasts who groom over 170 kilometres of trails around the Barry’s Bay, Wilno, Madawaska and Whitney area. These trails are a lifeline to both the community and local businesses in the winter months, and SABA encourages anybody with time or resources to help out. Wayne Winterbottom, the vice president of the OSSC, says that in addition to financial donations, they are looking to fill two volunteer positions; an event coordinator and a trail warden.

Winterbottom says that the money that SABA and other businesses are contributing is going towards gas, oil, and chainsaw maintenance to help keep the trails groomed.

“What that money goes towards is putting fuel in our saws, and keeping the chains sharp and the oil in them. We have a separate brushing budget and that covers the cost of things like moving the grader in to work on the rail lines and keeping the trails clean that way. But we don’t actually have a budget for gas, oil, and chainsaw costs,” he says.

The OSSC is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, and to bring in much needed revenue due to COVID-19 closing off many of their fundraising initiatives, they commissioned hoodie sweaters with the club’s new logo, which sell for $50. They were designed by Winterbottom’s girlfriend, Rachel Etmanskie, who donated her time and talent to the project.

“They’re great sweaters and they’re selling pretty well. They’re made by Linda at BB Creations in Deacon, Ontario,” he says.

Winterbottom says that there was a changing of the executive back in August, as the previous one had lost the drive to continue on and wanted to close the club down. Despite that, he and the new executive resolved to carry on with the club.

“Everything is going great now. We have a brand-new club, all new executive, and a strong volunteer base. We have the support of all the communities in our area, which is awesome,” he says.

With regard to their volunteers, he says they have a fantastic group coming out and helping, both young and old.

“We have a great bunch of people out in the Whitney area to keep an eye on the trails and let us know what’s going on. If they see something, they’ll either go out and fix it themselves or call us,” he says.

He mentions one man, Joe Kirby, who is in his 70s, who has been very supportive.

“We need guys like that because they’ve been in the club for 30 years or more and have knowledge and experience about the trails. I turn to him weekly with questions and he’s more than helpful. Without that help and support from him, we’d be lost,” he says.

They are looking to fill two volunteer positions, according to Winterbottom. They need an event coordinator, to look after planning the club’s events, and they also need trail wardens, to educate people and watch over the trails during the season. He says that although someone has a title and responsibility within the club, not one position is filled exclusively by one person. Everyone in the club comes together and helps get it done.

Angela Pollak of SABA says that they have sent $200, and a couple of members of the local business community have sent some money to the club to help cover costs.

“What I know for sure is that SABA is eager to support and collaborate with the Snowmobile Club, and in fact, all recreational trail users in our area. Both our trail system, which is second to none in the province, and the people who use them are a priority area for discussion at our meetings,” she says.

Despite COVID-19 and the restrictions it has placed on the club’s activities and fundraising, Winterbottom is optimistic about the season ahead.

“I think we’re going to get a lot of people up here because nobody can go south easily. So, I think they’re going to be hitting the trails. Snowmobile sales have been high this year. Anyone you talk to doesn’t have a snowmobile for sale and all the dealerships are sold out,” he says. “So, it’s going to be a really busy year.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times