COVID-19 deals blow to Haliburton Forest’s Poker Run

By Darren Lum

COVID-19 has delivered a fatal blow to what would have been the 30th annual Poker Run, traditionally hosted by the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve every February.

With rising cases of the coronavirus across Ontario, it has prompted townships and event organizers to consider cancelling or rescheduling any public gatherings.

Tegan Legge, the general manager of the Haliburton Forest confirmed the latest cancellation of another public event related to the sweeping influence of COVID-19 when she announced the cancellation of the annual snowmobile touring event fundraiser for the Haliburton Firefighters Association scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6.

“We have made this tough decision for the safety of our staff, guests and community. This event over the years has brought in over 350 riders (some years over 400) annually from all over Ontario to stay and play within our community. Last year, between the efforts of our staff and our incredible volunteers, we raised $15,000 for our local fire department,” she wrote in a prepared statement. “We have all intentions of continuing this annual tradition in 2022, on Saturday, February 12.”

Although the event isn’t on, all day pass fees for Saturday, Feb. 6 will be donated to the Dysart Fire Department. Legge said the forest trails will be available and the facility will be open for day passes and to those “already staying with us.” Food will be served this winter with an outdoor barbecue on weekends.

Mike Iles, Dysart et al Fire Department chief said Haliburton Forest has always been supportive of the department with its donations to the Haliburton Fire Association over the years, whether it was from financial contributions, offering their staff or equipment to emergency scenes or even bringing food and coffee to firefighters.

Iles said their day-to-day operations will not be affected by the event’s cancellation, but that the donated money was often used to purchase extra equipment or equipment that could enhance the service the fire department provides. The list of items purchased include battery operated extrication tools, snowmobile rescue equipment, portable battery powered lighting, and a boat and motor.

“Our first snowmobile and rescue toboggan was purchased using donations made by the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife, since then we have purchased a second rescue toboggan (from donated funds), which gives us the flexibility of responding to back country emergencies by ATV in the summer and snowmobile in the winter,” he wrote.