By Darren Lum
Participation in outdoor recreational activities was way up this winter with the pandemic and snowmobiling in Haliburton County following that trend, as indicated by the numbers from the Haliburton County Snowmobile Association (HCSA).
John Enright, HCSA vice president said membership was “up significantly” over the past 10 years and that memberships were up 25 per cent compared to last year with the sale of 2,616 paid memberships.
“We have been [on] either side of about 2,300 members for the past decade. Back in the 90s we were over 3,200 members but it was different back then – fewer clubs and the types of memberships sold were different,” he wrote in an email. “Comparing today’s numbers to the [3,200] we had some 30 years ago is an apples to oranges comparison.”
Enright said the rise in popularity is owed to the public looking for things to do while remaining close to home.
“The biggest reason we grew is people wanted something to do. Nobody went to Cancun or Miami Beach this past winter. They were at home, so they took up snowmobiling. That’s probably the biggest growth factor,” he said in an interview with the Echo.
Enright expects membership for the club’s upcoming 50th year to be strong again, but isn’t certain it will be sustainable, believing people will sell their snowmobiles when international travel becomes popular again. At this time, there aren’t any plans for an anniversary event because of the uncertainty of the times.
The HCSA season recently ended earlier in March with the sustained warm spell experienced by the area, but the season was “slightly longer than average.”
This year’s winter conditions proved favourable for the 370 kilometres of trails.
Like the Nordic skiers in the Highlands, the snowmobilers were provided a year of continuous trail use.
“Winter was very, very kind to us,” he said. “We didn’t have a January thaw. We didn’t have a January thaw until March so the snow held longer. We [were] late bloomers. It came late, but when it hit it stuck.”
Back in September, the OFSC (Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs) announced its annual volunteer award winners and reposted about it on social media a few days ago. Enright was named among the 15 recipients, one for each of the 15 OFSC districts with a 2020 Outstanding OFSC Volunteer of the Year award. The award recognizes “exceptional achievement in one or more of the following areas: participation development, rider experience, volunteerism and/or partnership development.”
Enright said he was “beyond humbled” with winning his first ever volunteer award, but quickly deflected any praise from his accolade to the efforts of the 30 volunteers and countless members, who help in a variety of ways from picking up litter or clearing trails of branches, which he calls “unsolicited helpers.”
Any and all success related to the club is dependent on everyone contributing.
“It’s the old thing that if everybody does a little no one does a lot,” he said.
The HCSA member for seven non-continuous years said he is proud of his efforts related with the trail guide, and using social media and marketing to engage more people.
There has been marked improvement for the club’s profile since he started working in the area five years ago. When he started the club had 1,500 Facebook followers and now it has close to 5,200. Community awareness about the club has grown through advertisements and working with local media, whether it was as a regular presence on the radio the past two winters, or in stories published in the newspapers.
With the OFSC Landowner Appreciation Week held this past week from March 22 to 28, Enright credited the many landowners for enabling the existence of the HCSA network of trails.
“We would not exist. There would be no trails and they’re so decent and generous to allow us on their property. Thank you. That’s what we say,” he said.