Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ontario Trail News - answer our survey on the benefits of trails, and snowmobiling in Peterborough

Be sure to answer our survey on the Benefits of Trails

OPINION EDITORIAL

PoV: Snowmobiling plan worth consideration

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 11:05:09 EST AM
Observe safety guidelines and common sense when operating a snowmobile. Wear a helmet, warm clothes and don’t drive impaired. Snowmobiling is not allowed on public property in Camrose.
Observe safety guidelines and common sense when operating a snowmobile. Wear a helmet, warm clothes and don’t drive impaired. Snowmobiling is not allowed on public property in Camrose.
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Snowmobile tourism is big business in many parts Ontario, but not so much in Peterborough. This area, a tourism jewel, attracts visitors galore over the three other seasons, but come winter, things slow down.

That's why opening some of the city's trails up to snowmobiles in winter makes sense - to a point.

Ontario boasts 30,000 kilometres of interconnected snowmobiling trails. Avid riders often take a week or two to journey around the province along these trails, spending on food and fuel and staying in lodges and inns that cater to the snowsuit crowd each winter.

There's very little sign of them in Peterborough, though.

Head out in to the county and further north, west and east and you find safe, mapped routes that offer snowmobilers a chance to explore a side of Ontario most of us don't see in winter; the Abitibi Canyon Loop, the Bon Echo run and the Goldrush Tour near Timmins are good examples. Communities in the north go to great lengths to accommodate their snowmobiling visitors, even constructing smaller secondary bridges to get them across rivers and ravines in some areas.

Nobody's proposing anything that major here. Not yet, at least. But there is a suggestion before council to allow snowmobiles on sections of the Trans-Canada Trail as it comes into the city, particularly a new section to be built this year south of Lansdowne St.

It's an interesting idea, one with some issues associated with it, but something worth considering.

The positives: The trails are barely used in winter. They're impassable on foot, and while they're well-suited for cross-country skiing, that sport is enjoyed by a fairly small group, and is definitely not a tourism draw.

Trail groups would maintain the routes in winter, so taxpayers are off the hook for that; cost wouldn't be a problem. Combined with the Pan Am Games paying for the trail revitalization and the city gains a tourism draw without going out of pocket.

There are negatives, some of them raised already by city staff, who recommend against the idea. Skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts are no doubt going to have concerns about snowmobilers on the trails. People living nearby will have something to say about the noise. Safety, of course, will always be an issue. These are valid concerns - but do they outweigh the benefits?

So, as city staff start work on a plan for the trail, it makes sense for council to try this out. Give it one year, one full winter. Weigh the pros, weigh the cons, and make the right decision. Going forward, there's potential for tourism growth here, and the city deserves to have that trail explored.