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Riding the trails for free


As a member of the Wheeled Recreational Vehicle Association (a group that doesn't actually exist) which includes ATVs, side-by-sides, dirt bikes, etc., I want to express my thanks and gratitude to the provincial government and the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation (NLSF) for the maintenance and upkeep of the provincial snowmobile system for members of the WRVA.

Thanks to all the snowmobilers out there who buy trail passes so that we can ride in comfort during your three off-seasons - spring, summer and fall - and, yes, sometimes during the winter also.

I want to express my gratitude to the provincial government for allowing the NLSF to only require snowmobilers to pay for the use of the trails.

I had the privilege of experiencing how lucky I am as a member of the WRVA when last winter, here in central, I was driving my quad (ATV) on the snowmobile trail and came upon a checkpoint where officers paid by the province using taxpayers' dollars were ticketing those snowmobilers who didn't have a trail pass.

They, however, allowed me to continue on with my free ride.

The NLSF is having difficulties enticing snowmobilers to buy trail passes but they are extremely proficient in coming up with reasons why snowmobilers are not purchasing their trail passes.

For example, last year they blamed God (Hurricane Igor) for the poor sales of passes, yet it was only a few days ago they reported that, because of poor sales of trail passes, they would have to limit their snow grooming activities if the sale of passes doesn't pick up. (They cannot blame God in 2012 because there is lots of snow in most parts of the province - so who or what will they blame for the lack of sales?)

I greatly appreciate the NLSF's economic expertise on this issue but I am a little confused.

To entice more snowmobilers to buy trail passes, they increased the regular price by 20 per cent for the year 2011/12.

Since 2008, they have increased the early bird prices by 33.3 per cent and the regular trail passes by 50 per cent.

In my economic world, if you want to increase sales, you have to decrease the cost of the product or increase the services that the product provides.

However, in the case of the NLSF, the efficiency of the services that they provide has decreased over the past five years. Here's an example: the NLSF is responsible for the snowmobile trail between Bishop's Falls and Botwood, and last year, the trail was groomed once in February and that was it for the year. Now that's service.

As a member of the WRVA, I have no problem with the increases in the cost of trail passes because I get to ride free, but I feel sorry for my snowmobiler friends who have to pay more for less.

To prove the point, this year those that purchased a trail pass at the outrageous price of $120 (plus administration fee) have been told that the NLSF will once again reduce its services by reducing its trail maintenance and grooming activities because of lack of sales of trail passes.

It has been rumoured that the NLSF has requested bailout money from the provincial government in the area of $100,000 to $250,000. I cannot get the NLSF or the provincial government to confirm or deny the rumour. This would be something that I am not in agreement with - using taxpayers' money to bail out an economically incompetent organization like the NLSF.

With regards to the cost of trail passes, it is interesting to note that if you went online on the NLSF website prior to Oct. 31, 2011, you could have gotten your trail pass for $60. It appears, however, that this deal was not common knowledge for the general public. I have to ask the question, is this legal? And if not, why hasn't the provincial government acted on behalf of the people of the province to stop this immoral and illegal (at least in principle) act?

There are many more accolades and praise I would like to express to the NLSF and the provincial government on this issue, however I am constricted by word count and space.

In closing, I want to, on behalf of the WRVA riders, thank the NLSF and the provincial government for the upkeep of the snowmobile trail system so we can enjoy the great outdoors on our wheeled vehicles for free, all year round.

Brian Pollard,

Bishop's Falls.

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