Everywhere you go, starting in December and continuing to April, there are pickup trucks and trailers travelling to central and western Newfoundland so outdoor lovers can enjoy the great outdoors on their snowmobiles.
The gas station owners, restaurants and places of accommodation consider the snow to be white gold. The latest figures I can find show that in 2005, the snowmobile industry pumped $192 million into the local economy. At the time, the province had 30,000 machines. Imagine how those figures have ballooned during the oil boom of the past 10 years. And that boom is an annual event, every year, as long as the snow stays.
Much of this boom is due to a relatively small investment by the province. Some $20 million pumped into the T’Railway and legislation that allows the N.L. Snowmobile Federation to collect fees, and compels T’Railway users to pay them, makes it all possible.
The money was used to upgrade the T’Railway, making it one of the finest snowmobile destinations anywhere. Money was invested in groomers, warming stations, signage and other things to create a first-class winter adventure. The result is an annual influx of snowmobilers bringing money, providing jobs and prosperity to the local economy of communities close to the T’Railway.
I contend that the ATVs in the province can make that economic boom continue during the months when there is no snow to be seen.
There are at least as many rubber-tired machines in N.L. as snowmobiles. All that is lacking is places for them to ride. Lots of jurisdictions have short trail networks, some of the best being on the Burin Peninsula.
The five-kilometre return trip from Garnish to Point Rosie brings ATVers from all over the province, and even out of province, every year. If the Garnish-Point Rosie Trail Association could collect $1 from each of them, that association would be awash with cash.
Unfortunately, such is not the case. There is no legislation that obliges trail users to pay. Consequently, money for trail building and maintenance must come from voluntary association membership fees, the sale of cold plates and tickets, etc. The province has ignored the ATV industry potential entirely.
What is required to extend the economic boom brought by the fall of snow is a plan by the government to create a provincial ATV trail network. The same amount of money and similar legislation as is in place for the N.L. Snowmobile Federation would allow this to happen. Such has been said to various ministers of tourism for years, but to date, the case has fallen on deaf ears.
What is needed is a committed group of individuals from all over the province to meet with the decision-makers to lobby for action. I am making a list. If you are prepared to be part of this, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am creating a plan that would be a starting discussion point. It has been sent to all 48 MHAs. You can read “Opportunity Awaits Down the Trail” at www.townofgarnish.com.
Elroy Grandy, secretary
Burin Peninsula Trailway Board Inc.