OXFORD – While this winter’s over abundance of snow was great for snowmobiling, it and rising fuel prices had the opposite effect on sled clubs.

Instead of taking it easy and coasting through the summer, many like Oxford’s Rock-O-Dundee Riders must continue fundraisers to get out of the red.

“We don’t usually have to continue our fundraisers into the spring and summer, but, due to our deficit in our trail grooming fund, we must continue,” club secretary and past president Suzanne Hall said Thursday afternoon.

Last winter, the club, which is responsible for grooming about 40 miles of trail, including ITS 89, spent $992.50 on fuel for grooming.

Last year, snowfall didn’t start until mid-January, and then storms only hit sporadically.

This winter, however, snowfall started in early December and continued through much of April. That’s why the Oxford club’s grooming cost was a whopping $3,709.80, Hall said.

“This was due to the increase in gasoline (costs) and the frequent, heavy and continued snow we received,” she said.

“We had the same number of groomers both years. There are other costs, too, like insurance on all the groomers and their registration fees.”

The club also suffered unexpected breakdowns with its 1980s Tucker groomer, which had to be repaired or grooming would stop.

On Wednesday, the club got its annual grant allotment from the Maine Department of Parks and Recreation – $3,300 – which only covers grooming 30 miles of trail.

“If your club grooms more than the 30 miles, the club pays for all of them above that,” Hall said.

Rick Hebert, president of the Peru Snowmobile Club, said Thursday in Rumford that the club has the same problem, only not as bad.

The club did, however, put some purchases aside because it didn’t have any money left over.

According to the Maine Snowmobile Association, it’s a problem statewide this winter.

“A lack of volunteers, equipment troubles and sky-high fuel costs have left most clubs exhausted and broke with a potential of six weeks or more of riding left,” a statement on the MSA Web site said in February.

That’s why an emergency session of the Maine Snowmobile Trail Fund Advisory Council was called in February with a vote to recommend that the state’s snowmobile program take $342,000 from its $700,000 of unspent carryover balance to provide supplemental assistance to clubs statewide.

The deadline to apply for that was last week. At the same time, the council also voted to support a snowmobile registration fee increase to $50 for Mainers and $100 for nonresidents.

It died in legislative committee, however, Hall said.

Sen. Bruce Bryant, D-Dixfield, said Thursday night that that’s why the Legislature voted to raise snowmobile registration fees $2 for Mainers and $68 for nonresidents. That money will go into the state’s snowmobile trail fund.

Hall called it a small quick fix.

But until more is done at the state level to alleviate problems, Hall said her club will continue to hold fundraisers and be thankful for the generosity of others.

The next is a dance from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday, May 3, at the Silver Spur on Route 121 in Mechanic Falls. The BelAirs will play, and tickets are $10 per person at the door. For info, Hall may be contacted at 539-2616.

“The volunteer time and money to maintain these trails is phenomenal,” she said. If the state had to contract this work out, there would be no trails. Our last club grant increase was in 2005 and look what has happened since then. Diesel has gone from $1.70 to $4 a gallon and gas is about the same. … The state needs to step up to the plate and give some credit and money where it is due,” she said.


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