The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) is asking all snowmobilers to join us in keeping OFSC trails available to ride every winter.
Thanks to 18,000 generous landowners, about 60% of OFSC trails cross private property, providing access to communities and services, as well as connections neighbouring regions, and safer riding for everyone.
So each snowmobiler who loves trail riding shares a common goal of protecting our trails on private property, respecting our landowner partners, and maintaining the inter-connected trail system that provides so many positive benefits for rural economies.
All of us have a part to play in preserving snowmobile trails and standing up for our landowners. Together, our goal is to make wandering off the marked trail and trespassing on private property as socially unacceptable within the snowmobile community as drinking and driving, driving without a seatbelt, or smoking in the workplace are throughout our province.
After all, trails that cross private land are a privilege, not a right. And it’s a privilege that the OFSC takes very seriously by providing comprehensive liability insurance coverage for incidents related to snowmobile trails for each landowner who enters into a land use agreement with their local snowmobile club. But there’s more our snowmobile community can do to show landowners we appreciate the privilege of using their land.
Most of us already view wandering off the marked trail as socially unacceptable. We understand that this release may be preaching to the converted, but what better group is there to help spread the word about staying on the marked trail?
We also understand that trespass persists among a minority of riders who don’t get that such behaviour is not only illegal and dangerous, but also threatens the future of safe and legal organized snowmobile trails for all of us.
So together, we must encourage these offenders to change their attitude. To assist, the OFSC has taken the lead by creating a new OFSC Trail Rider Code of Conduct. This code will help ensure that every snowmobiler clearly understands what is acceptable behaviour while riding on private land. It will also be an important tool for educating new riders of all ages about what our snowmobile community expects from them.
In addition, the OFSC is getting our message out by posting the below graphics on our social media and sharing them as widely as possible. Last week, we shared an informative “Stay on Trail or Stay Home” post in our weekly newsletter that described the dire consequences resulting from wandering off trail.
In cooperation with other concerned stakeholders, we are currently working on a short video that delivers a hard-hitting call to action to help stop trespass and save our trails. We are also working with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to address landowner issues of mutual concern.
Next, we are asking responsible snowmobilers to work with us to help foster socially acceptable trail behaviour. It won’t happen overnight and it won’t be easy, but we owe it to ourselves, the club volunteers who work so hard on our behalf, and the landowners who support our trails to act now. Isn’t that better than feeling powerless and just watching our trails disappear without doing anything to stop it?
Together, our collective individual efforts will make a big difference. Here are a few suggestions for how you can take personal action to support with these important anti-trespass initiatives:
* Read and understand the OFSC Trail Rider Code of Conduct.
* Make sure that everyone you ride with reads it and knows the importance of staying on the marked trail, by mentioning it as part of a pre-ride briefing.
* If you know any newbies, please take a minute to deliver the stay on the marked trail message.
* Refuse to ride with anyone who doesn’t stay on the marked trail.
* Talk to your children about staying on the marked trail so it becomes their habit whenever and with whomever they ride.
* Share the OFSC graphics with family, friends and riding companions on your social media.
* Only post photos or videos on social media that show snowmobilers riding on the marked trail.
* If you see any social media posts that condone wandering off the marked trail, comment that this is not acceptable and causes trail closures. Delete the post if possible and if necessary, unfriend the poster.
* If you see any posts on snowmobile groups that promote wandering off the marked trail, report to the group admin asking for the post to be removed.
* Be friendly and courteous with any non-snowmobilers you pass on the trail as anyone could be the owner of that land or a friend of the owner.
* Any time you see someone who could be the landowner on a farm or at a structure near the trail, give them a friendly wave of appreciation.
We realize that changing socially unacceptable behaviour is only part of the overall solution to keeping riders on the trail. But it is one significant way we can be empowered to work together immediately to encourage a much-needed shift in attitude that will benefit every snowmobiler, every landowner and every rural community. So let’s be part of the solution – each individual effort will move us one step closer to our common goal.