Oxford snowmobile club gets $35,000 grant

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OXFORD — The Rock-O-Dundee Riders Snowmobile Club in Oxford has been awarded a $35,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program to assist in the purchase of snowmobile trail grooming equipment to be used in Oxford County.

The money is expected to save nine jobs in snowmobile maintenance-related businesses, according to U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, who made the announcement Tuesday.

“It’s a huge economic impact,” said club trail master Todd Schmieks of the snowmobilers who routinely stop at places like Maine-Ly Action Sports in Oxford for snowmobile service or C.N. Brown, for gas and snacks as they ride the trails in the winter. “On a busy weekend, its five sleds for every car.”

Schmieks said the club’s 62 members ride the 42 miles of trails the club maintains in Oxford, West Paris, Mechanic Falls, Hebron and Casco and between. He added that 1977 Tucker grooming machine often breaks down.

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With the grant money, the club, which was formed in 1972, has purchased a 1999 Sure-Track machine that will enhance its snow grooming abilities, said Schmieks, who oversees all the trails in his job as the club’s trail master.

Schmieks said the groomer is a used one but a new one can cost up to $200,000 to $250,000 “easily.”

Without the purchase, Schmieks said a lot of trail work would not get done including the opening up of another 8 miles of old trails that have not been groomed in several years. “It’s quite a process. We’d be in a lot of trouble (without the new machine),” he said.

Snowe and Collins praised the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development saying in a prepared statement, “Snowmobiling is an important part of Maine’s economy, particularly in the Oxford region. We are pleased that USDA Rural Development recognizes the importance of supporting recreational and economic opportunities in Maine’s rural communities.”

The USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant program provides money to public agencies, private non-profit corporations or Indian groups for rural projects that finance and facilitate development of small and emerging rural privater business enterprises, said the senators.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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