MADISON — A local snowmobile club that maintains part of a statewide trail system is no longer in danger of closing after dozens of people showed support for keeping the club open.
“I was just overwhelmed. There were so many new people I had never seen before,” said Bonnie Moore, who is retiring as secretary for the Abnaki Sno-Riders Snowmobile Club.
She said the club, which has struggled to maintain active members, elected a new slate of officers Monday night and is hopeful about the upcoming snowmobile season.
Earlier this month the club, which maintains about 50 miles of trails that help fuel the area’s economy in the winter, said that a lack of participation by members meant they were in danger of not being able to keep up with trail maintenance, including on a section of the state’s highly traveled Interconnected Trail System.
The ITS makes up about 3,500 of Maine’s 14,000 miles of snowmobile trails and runs from Biddeford to Edmundston, New Brunswick. Last year, snowmobiling generated about $350 million of economic activity in Maine, according to the Maine Tourism Association.
About half of the roughly 55 people who attended Monday night’s meeting were new to the club, said Moore. In recent months she said it was rare for more than 10 people to attend. Her son, Thomas Moore, who recently resigned as the club’s trail master, said it was difficult to recruit volunteers to help with trail maintenance in the winter. In addition to working a full-time job, he said he would spend most of his nights and weekends running grooming machines on the trails.
On Tuesday, Moore said she was excited about the number of young people who showed support for the club, many of whom were high school students or people in their 20s.
“It’s good to have young blood. They’re going to learn the process and see what goes in to maintaining the trails,” Moore said. “They’ll realize the work that is required so people can enjoy the trails.”
Abnaki is one of 289 snowmobile clubs in Maine that are responsible for most of the state’s trail maintenance and for getting landowner permission for trail use, something individuals would have to do if the clubs did not exist.
And even though the club maintains a relatively small portion of the ITS trail, Moore said the effects of even a small section of the trail closing would resonate with riders around the state.
“It would be like driving down the road and all of a sudden you don’t have a road for 14 miles. With the club staying open and having members, we have trails, and residents won’t have to take their vehicles somewhere else so they can ride,” she said.
The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, at the clubhouse, which is on U.S. Route 201 about five miles north of downtown Skowhegan. The club is still looking for a secretary.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368