TBAT Tries To Reestablish Full Trail Network In Thunder Bay
By Scott A. Sumner
Brett Rushton is the new President of Thunder Bay Adventure Trails for the 2006/ 2007 season. We had a chance to ask him what we can expect trail wise this season in Thunder Bay. Brett is a long time snowmobile enthusiast and volunteer in the trail system. This year he is not involved with the OFSC at the provincial level but concentrating on the survival of the TBAT.
What is happening with the trail system in Thunder Bay this season?
We have been trying to reestablish the connection between Thunder Bay and Nipigon for the the past 4 years so the trail will go through Thunder Bay. The TBAT has hired two consultants being paid for by the OFSC - Ian Angus and Dennis Forbes. I hope to hear something from them in the next week or so. I don't know if we can reestablish it this year as it is so late in the season but we will try and if not, hopefully we can do it for next year. We are still waiting to hear back from Hydro One to use the corridor through Thunder Bay.
What trails will be open this year?
The trails from Kakabeka west including the A Trail that runs from Kakabeka to Shabaqua and Shabaqua to the end of Burchell Lake Road which will connect to the Atikokan Trail System. Then it is South on the D110 to Gravel Lakes Cabins and on to Gunflint Lake for a one way trail from the US to Canada. The Americans could come to Canada this way as long as they get a remote border crossing ahead of time. You will be able to come from Gunflint to Northern Lights up to Burchill Lake Road and Hart Road and then back to Kakabeka.The Atikokan Club is looking after that so you will have a nice loop there. I cant see the trail going through Thunder Bay this season. It is very late and Hydro One hasnt got back to us yet. If we get the permission and we can do it we will try to establish the trail from say Balsam St or Trowbridge to Nipigon and set up a staging area so youll be able to start from Trowbridge and head east. That is our goal. I don't see the Kakabeka trail coming in to Thunder Bay happening this year as well. That is all hinging on the Hydro One corridor and we are still waiting for approvals. The Ontario Realty Corporation now operates the transmission corridors and they put kinda of a message out to the municipalities if they wanted to use the corridors for recreation the city could put in an application for use. The City of Thunder Bay put in an application for us to use the corridor through town. They may choose to have a walking hiking trail use in the summer as well. The application has been in for over a year and still no response. It is all beyond our control. The OFSC has provided funds to do the trail, all we need is the permission. We are working on it and waiting. We plan on connecting at Pigeon River via the D109 trail which goes from Gravel Lake Cabins and then comes up the D100 to Shabaqua to Kakakeka. We are pretty close to doing that. At one time we wanted to come through Neebing along the Hwy 61 corridor. I don't see that happening in the near future anyway. Landowners are a concern.
Why have the trails remained closed for so long?
Someone travelling across Canada would have to stop in Nipigon and trailer the sleds to Kakabeka. We have had that for 4 years and at that time when our trail was closed we asked the OFSC for money to reestablish it and were denied. It took them four years to realize we don't have a trail anymore. It is shame on Thunder Bay and the OFSC. It would never happen in Quebec. There is a new president at the OFSC - Bruce Robertson whom I have known for years and he is very club oriented. I hope we get more back to the clubs because with out the clubs there is no OFSC. There is also the CCSO which benefits the smaller snowmobile provinces the most. Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick are already well established in snowmobiling.
How many trail permits were sold last year in Thunder Bay?
Last year we sold 189 permits in Thunder Bay. Our peak season of 1996/97 we sold 3,200 permits. We are hoping for more than 200 this year!!! They are on sale now at $180 and $230 after Dec 1st. The 7 day permit went up $20, and is now $120 and they have done away with the 1day permit and replaced it with the 3 day which is $90.
How is the spirit of the Thunder Bay Adventure Trails board?
We have a full board with 3 new board members who have lots of energy and enthusiasm. It looks good. Once we get our permissons in place we will be laughing. There are two groomers and a full time groomer operator, Brad Hill who has been with us since 1993. The groomers are stored in the old Agriculture building on Hwy 130, Oliver Paipoonge. The financial position is we have money in the bank because years ago we had sold our third groomer which we will need when we reestablish the trail.When we sold it we didnt have the money to survive. We will need the money we obtained from that sale to make a down payment on the third groomer but with permit sales at 189 we won't last too many more years. We need to get the permits sales up and the Americans coming up.
What can you tell the snowmobiler who thinks the permit price is too high?
What can I tell them. If you are a long distance snowmobiler you can trailer to Nipigon. If you go west you can start at Kakabeka and ride 350 Km of our trails, connect to Atikokan and have some fun. At $180 if you go out 6 days its only $30 per day. I don't consider that too expensive if you can afford a $10,000 sled. Our trails have been beautiful for many seasons and there has been very little traffic.