The Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting a very snowy winter, but unless the National Valley Snowmobile Association can increase its volunteer base, groomed trails in their area will be nonexistent.

The Nation Valley Snowmobile Association includes the Mountain Trailblazers, Finch Northstar, South Dundas, and Winchester Township, so the loss of their trail system would create a huge gap in what is a very well-maintained and extensive trail system. The Nation Valley trails run from the northern boundary at Winchester, Belmeade road south to the 401 at Morrisburg, west to Mountain, and east to Crysler/Finch. There are approximately 328 kms of trails which have been maintained since 1994.

Marika Livingston is a former association board member. “I am the former secretary, but I helped with the onboarding of the president last year and the onboarding of the groomer coordinator,” says Livingston. “I guess I somehow just got roped in because I brought these people in and took it upon myself to help them get oriented.”

According to Livingston, email stats reflect the change they are seeing in their volunteer base. “We subscribe to Mailchimp for our mass emails and OFSC (Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs) gives us permission to email people purchasing trail passes to see if they consent to sharing their email with us,” says Livingston. “I have an email list of about 368 people, which is significant, you would think, because that is just a portion of the people who purchase trail passes and the rest of them just said ‘no’, they didn’t want to get emails.

Of that 368 people, about 90 per cent consented to receiving emails and said that they would like to volunteer.

“Last year we had a desperate plea to the public and to our members and we got some interest from new people who came on board,” says Livingston. “This year again we’re noticing a major turnover; people who volunteered last year, who were new to our club got burned out. They’re just not happy with the volunteer base underneath them to kind of help things go smoothly.

“We put another desperate plea in August, saying “Trails to close,” and only half of the people who consented to receiving our emails even opened them and we only got maybe five new volunteers.”

According to Livingston, most people are not interested in the executive positions; they don’t want to manage the club. “They are fine with doing some brush cutting or trail signage but they’re not willing to sit at the board level and help manage the club,” says Livingston.

The association sent out another email this week, this time with some input from someone who has some marketing experience. They put together an ad with great messaging. “They helped us with how we should write the email and how we should target it and I got one new person and that’s it and over half the people still haven’t opened the email,” says Livingston.

“What we’re trying to get across to people is, if you hop on your sled, and you would usually just hop on the local trails, well, in 2023 those trails are going to be gone. You’re going to have to trailer your sled, or you’re going to have to do what they call ditch-banging until you reach the trail in Riverside, or Osgoode or Kemptville. You’re not going to be able to go to the Sandy Road Golf Club on your sled or you’re not going to be able to go to the McIntosh for wings. It’s just so frustrating; we’re putting this out there and there’s not [an] uptake and they think we’re just crying wolf.”

Currently, the Nation Valley Snowmobile Association has a secretary, possibly a treasurer, no president, no vice-president, and there are probably four of the nine director roles that remain vacant.

“This has been a problem for about a decade, we have amazing, dedicated volunteers who are looking for relief,” says Livingston. “We have had a huge turnover in our executive in the last five years, with a lot stepping down due to burnout. We need all key director sector roles filled to have a healthy sustainable executive leadership who aren’t taking on too much or doing multiple roles.

This will have dire consequences for small businesses relying on snow tourism,” adds Livingston. “It will take a beautiful recreational sport away from those who love spending a snowy day out with friends and seeing the beautiful trails that NVSA has helped trailblaze since 1994.”