Snowmobilers continue to resist budget cuts
Les membres des associations et clubs de motoneiges locaux se sont mobilisés pour défendre l’importance économique de la motoneige dans la région auprès du conseil des Comtés unis de Prescott-Russell. Comme le montant de 170 000 $ du budget 2018 est destiné à couvrir les coûts d’entretien du tronçon principal de 70 km, il reste encore 400 autres kilomètres qui sont entretenus grâce au travail de bénévoles de divers clubs de motoneige. Selon les motoneigistes, le sport a un impact économique de 12 M $ dans la région de Prescott-Russell. De plus, la saison dernière, plus de 400 motoneiges ont été vendues à Prescott-Russell et les deux principaux concessionnaires de la région emploient ensemble plus de 100 personnes. As winter fast approaches, some local residents are eagerly tuning up their snowmobiles, anxious to hit the trails as soon as they receive a good coat of snow. Not everyone shares their enthusiasm, however.
After members of the council of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) debated cutting funding for the maintenance of country trails last year, members of local snowmobile clubs and associations have stepped forward to defend the economic importance of snowmobiling in the region.
Although council has approved 172 000 $ in the 2018 budget for the maintenance of the 72-km trail that runs east to west through Prescott-Russell, known as the Recreational Trail, UCPR council members are still not convinced that snowmobiling brings in enough revenue to support this kind of budget.
Knowing that this thought process from local politicians keeps the funding for the snowmobile trails at risk for future years, local snowmobile organizations have begun defending their position – most notably the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs. Snowmobile enthusiasts are going even further by arguing that this budget does not actually cover costs for the entire trail, leaving most of the work to volunteers.
Pascale Roy, a Clarence Creek member of District 1 of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, cites a $12 million economic impact from this activity, just in the Prescott-Russell area, and that this amount is much, much larger in all of Eastern Ontario. Additionally, last season, over 400 snowmobiles were sold in Prescott-Russell and the two main dealerships of the region together employ over 100 people. District 1 of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, alone has 12 000 members.
As the 172 000 $ is meant to cover maintenance costs for the main 72 kilometres of the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail, there are another 400 kilometres off that trail that snowmobilers use that remain maintained due to the work of volunteers from various snowmobile clubs.
Not only does snowmobiling encourage activity during the idle winter season, it provides an underestimated positive economical impact in the Prescott-Russell area, argues Roy, who recognizes that more needs to be done in order to shine a light on the economic benefits of the activity in order to maintain, and even increase, the maintenance budget for the coming years.