Eganville – Both the mayor of North Algona Wilberforce (NAW) Township and the president of the Eganville Sno-Drifters Club are describing the planned takeover of the club’s property by the municipality as a win-win situation for both groups.
Last week NAW Township and the Sno-Drifters Club announced a Letter of Intent had been signed by both the club and the township that will ensure the Bonnechere Cup races continue and will transfer the ownership of the club property to the township.
The property consists of several acres of land, a half-mile oval racetrack, a club house with a commercial kitchen and other assets. The facility is located just on the fringe of Eganville in NAW just behind Eganville Foodland.
A brief media release stated both parties are committed to moving forward with the process of entering into an agreement where the annual Bonnechere Cup snowmobile race and other events will continue.
As part of the agreement, the township will maintain the property and buildings and will also actively explore opportunities for the facility in other seasons that benefit the community and surrounding area.
The main reasons for the township taking over ownership are due to liability issues, a declining club membership and limited insurance options for clubs like the Sno-Drifters.
“It’s good news,” Mayor James Brose said, while Club President Zach Plotz said the take-over has a lot of positives to it.”
It is becoming more difficult for the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, a volunteer led not-for-profit association that provides the voice for organized snowmobiling in Ontario, to get insurance and so there is concern about clubs like the Eganville Sno-Drifters that have a licensed facility and professional snowmobile races.
Mayor Brose said he understood the Sno-Drifters name will be kept for the trail part of snowmobiling, but there will have to be a new name for hosting the races and other events. He said the same scenario has or will be taking place with other snowmobile clubs in the province.
The mayor said the partnership is one the township will certainly benefit from.
“We can use those facilities under the township umbrella and we can probably put on more events,” he said.
The commercial kitchen could also be used as a place to develop a program with Opeongo High School students who want to be certified as a cook, which was one of the recommendations in last year’s township strategic plan, he said.
As both sides meet in the future to work out details, the one event that will continue to take place is the annual Bonnechere Cup Races, Mayor Brose said.
He added many details have yet to be worked out, and this is only the beginning of the transfer process.
Mayor Brose explained the township was approached by the club to see if there was any way the township could help them.
“They explained their situation with the federation wanting them to separate all of their other activities from the trail part of the operation and so it certainly evolved from there,” he said.
Mayor Brose said all of council supports the plan.
“We would hate to see the snowmobile races evaporate because that event draws in a lot of people,” he said. “There were at least three events the Sno Drifters want to make sure they get to keep moving forward.”
Mayor Brose is excited about the possibilities.
“In partnership with the municipality there would be an opportunity for a lot more things to happen there than is currently going on,” he said.
Remove Some of the Burdens
Mr. Plotz said the transfer of ownership will remove a lot of the physical and financial burden from club volunteers and result in more use of the property.
He said there are only two companies that provide trail and director’s liability insurance and he understands they are trying to eliminate as much risk as possible.
“We kind of had three things working against us,” he said. “They are mandating us to get out of any race events, any buildings with a kitchen and any club that holds a liquor licence.
“So, in order for us to keep the trail system and director’s insurance over the trail system our club is sort of being split in half to keep the races going.”
He said working out a deal with the municipality was the most viable option the club could come up with.
The Sno-Drifters Club was organized just over 50 years ago and its peak there were as many 350 members with a waiting list to get in. In recent years it has fallen to about 20.
“It’s nowhere near what it was,” he said. “We have a lot of volunteers and a lot of help that aren’t paid members. The club has shifted over the years from being involved in the trails to more so the races.”
He feels this is the right move for the club and with the financial burden removed, it will allow more time to focus on events and make them better.
“It will hopefully open some new opportunities. The township will basically be a new partner so hopefully it will open some new opportunities when it comes to sponsorship, grants and funding,” he said.
Mr. Plotz said the change in ownership will not affect the trail system in the area.
“We’re not losing any trail system or anything like that.”