Page 33 - WCM 2022 Winter
P. 33

“In the River Valley, we’ve got 500 miles of trails, and our volunteer groomers pull bed springs behind Tucker Sno-Cats that are 81⁄2 feet wide, and intensely long, 12 to 16 hours straight. We can thank private landowners who account for 90 percent of them. One owner opened 84,000 acres, and the mill helped build a trail to Rangeley. The Mexico and Dixfield clubs built a bridge across Webb River. Welders and builders donated their time. It was an $84,000 project, and 3⁄4 was in donations. This is how we keep going, with volunteers and donations.”
The Wild River Riders
Twenty years ago, folks on the North Road in Gilead created an informal club. They kept no records, generated no paperwork, and groomed with bed springs and double-track Ski-Doos. The Gilead Wild River Riders have come a long way since burning mattresses off bed springs; they now use a ‘98 Bearcat. “We’ve done a lot with a little,” Jim Borque, trail master, explains. “Jeff Hutchinson spotted a snowmobile trailer in our yard, and knocked on our door to ask for help. A dilapidated bridge across the Pleasant River needed repair. Fixing it with such tight resources was problematic, but we did it.”
John Walker, club president, adds, “This sport’s in my blood. I went with my dad and fell in love. I’ve dragged family in, so we’ve increased volunteers, but there are still less than 12 and we need more to do all the work necessary to keep going.”
Walker and Carole Borque (secretary) describe their plight maximizing available hands, and COVID- limited fundraising efforts. Additionally, some landowners cut off access to trails, all of which curtail riding. “But we were somewhat saved,” Borque says, “because in Maine when land is not posted as private you can go for it. Still, membership, trail maintenance and volunteering are key for a healthy sport.”
The Borques and Walker explain that they brush-
hog all summer with their own equipment and gas. “We love it, so we do it,” Walker says. Borque adds, “There’s places you can’t go without a machine to
see the beauty of snowy mountains like Kahtadin.” Adventure, serenity of the natural world, and meeting new people is the elixir that keeps them riding.
Norway Trackers Snowmobile Club
Robert Mowatt of the Norway Trackers struggles with promoting snowmobiling to local youth. He sees the sport as suffering from a “social issue,” and thinks it may stem from families challenged by lack of time, financial resources, and stressors inherent in raising children in a complex world. “We have 20
or so members show up at meetings. The average age is 55. Machines cost 12 to 18 thousand dollars new, and four to five thousand used. Once, it was family culture. Kids were born into it and the community was involved. The Maine Snowmobile Association (MSA) nominated us for Club of the Year in 2021 for our efforts involving community, and for having an active Facebook page, but landowners are selling, so public access has decreased. We’ve lost an important in-town trail because respect for others’ property has declined. We’ve even repaired property we haven’t damaged to keep trails open.”
 Above: For the Gilead Wild River Riders, snowmobiling is a family affair.
Below:The Norway Trackers at a favorite destination: the Greenwood Ice Caves.
 Courtesy Wild River Riders
 Courtesy Norway Trackers

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