Noel Road- There are trails being blazed throughout the province that are a highway unto themselves, taking you into natural areas like no other highway can.
There are two groups in the East Hants area who are responsible for this highway system, the Driftclimbers Snowmobile club and the Fundy ATVenturers. Sitting in the comfortable Driftclimber clubhouse, there are sleds sitting behind the couch, and both sleds and All Terrain Vehicle’s (ATV) on the lower level, two members from each group chat about how they are working together to overcome stereotypes of their respective sports, and how they have learned to work together in the shrinking area they preserve for themselves and other outdoor adventurers.
Greg Grant with the ATVenturers opened the conversation.
“You want to know about our compelling unique situation? As far as we go in this province, and at least all of Atlantic Canada and most of the rest of Canada we do have a unique situation because we are two groups that traditionally “don’t get along” for lack of a better phrase in the winter time-obviously there isn’t a problem in the summer. In most places snowmobilers don’t want ATV’s there, and will do everything in their power to keep them off. “
Grant credits their ability to get along to the fact that there are individuals in both groups who enjoy both sports.
Randy MacPhee with Fundy agrees.
“Like Greg says, it is a unique situation-not just the fact that we’re using trails that we both are able to enjoy, we have been involved in some activities that involve trial maintenance and building of trials, so we’ve kind of worked a little bit together in that respect. Not so much in working on the same trials together, but working towards building interconnecting trails. It’s helped both groups to be able to enjoy the same area.”
Brian Carter, a Past President of Driftclimbers, explained a bit of the history behind the adversarial stances of the groups. He says when snowmobiles became popular in the 60’s, there wasn’t a trail system in place and snowmobiles went wherever they could. This led to numerous accidents and deaths as people ran into fences or gates or went out onto ice that was unsafe. In the 70’s, snowmobile enthusiasts began organizing into clubs, getting permission from land owners to build safe trails and buying equipment to groom trails. When ATV’s came on the scene in the mid-80’s Carter says they were starting at the beginning with similar issues just as the snowmobiles had. However each group began claiming the trails for their own leading to disputes.
“It’s the evolution of the sports,” says Carter, “one is a little bit ahead of the other with respect to the organized side, but now to go from that to the organized side is really important because clubs can communicate with each other and work together much easier than individuals. So it’s really important that ATV clubs and snowmobile clubs exist, that way we can communicate better.”
MacPhee says the groups need to work together because the area to work with is limited, “Unfortunately this province seems to be getting smaller and smaller to run and have trails on. So being able to work together has certainly made a big difference in both of our sports to be enjoyed.”
“Once you have clubs communicating, you can take the next step which we have been doing, working together trying to link trails and get things to work together,” said Carter. “It’s really important because in both of our sports, as Randy said, space is getting smaller and smaller because there is a large group of people out there who are exclusionists, they want to exclude people and exclusionism is bad no matter what. Everybody has to work together, not only our two groups, but bicyclers, hikers and so on.”
Merlin White with Driftclimbers is one of the main groomers of the trails. He says he has witnessed a huge reversal of support for the trails and club since it began in the area four or five years ago. He says support was probably 80/20 against them but has grown to 70/30 for and credits that to understanding and respect for each sport. White will often receive phone calls from ATV drivers asking about trail conditions before heading out for a weekend run or to see what he thinks or ask what trails would be best to use.
“I think that’s where you are getting the unique, if that’s what you want to call it, the biggest thing is that people are starting to get respect for what we are trying to do,” says White.
One show of respect for the winter trails is the minus five rule that is used in Quebec. The ATV club has also adopted that rule, if the temperature is above minus 5; they recommend you stay off the groomed trail to avoid ruts. Usually once the snow is set up on a trail, an ATV will not do damage by just driving on it. While this is a rule for the club, they try and get the word out to all users so the sport remains enjoyable for everyone.
Grants says, “Merlin and them made it known they were not going to chase people off the trails because they have been used by everybody forever, and that was great. We adopted that minus five rule just to be respectful for them being that gracious for allowing us to use the groomed trails. We do our best to promote that to everybody whether they are in a club or not.”
As to the level of difficulty in starting to work together, neither group saw it as being a difficult process. Grant felt it was fairly easy and transitional, while MacPhee feels everyone recognizes there is a small place to do their sport and everyone has to work together. He also says everyone here has done both sports for so long that it’s just part of the community, making the transition easier.
With more than 400 kilometers of trails and bridges, and several hundred more kilometres of connecting trails, both groups have opened up great potential for the area. These trails are available summer and winter for both motorized and non-motorized sports.