“It’s a very good deal, a chance to try it out for free if you haven’t before,” says Cindy Cassidy, general manager of the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance. Ms. Cassidy is referring to the chance to use the trail system for free on Family Day, an opportunity eagerly seized by local snowmobilers. Season snowmobile passes can cost up to $260 says Cassidy, noting that the trails are used year round for hiking, cycling, ATV use and even dog-sledding.
“The fees depend on when they purchase it [the trail pass] and they are cheaper before November 1.”
The local network of trails extends from the Bay of Quinte to Algonquin Park and attracts 25,000 visitors annually “for the whole region we cover,” Cassidy reports. The trails generate $6 million in spending each year, the organization estimates. The trail project began in 1997 with a steering committee representing the Hastings, Quinte and Land O’ Lakes regions and became the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance (EOTA) in 1998. The group is incorporated as a not-for-profit charitable organization.
As well as managing the trails themselves. EOTA provides maps and listings of accommodations and lodgings along the trails. Larry Palmateer grooms the snow on the trails and reports that traffic on Family Day morning was low, likely because of the extremely cold temperatures.
“There was a lot going into Tweed yesterday. Coming into Madoc today I saw only two snowmobiles but Riley [another groomer] the other day quit counting after 45. Last year I would say there was at least a ten per cent increase in traffic on Family Day,” says Palmateer adding that last year was the first time one could obtain a trail permit on-line. He is relieved to see the significant snowfalls rider have been waiting for.
“People were getting pretty antsy in December and January when there was no snow. This year there’s been a lot of later permits,” he observes. “The big thing is snow for Christmas and New Year’s. That really affects sales of permits and snowmobiles and equipment.”
By early afternoon on Family Day the groups of snowmobiles passing through Tweed on the trail were becoming more numerous.
“If it warms up they’ll be just like bumble bees,” Palmateer predicted.