FARMINGTON — Issues facing local snowmobile clubs have led to the formation of a new cooperative: Western Foothills Snowmobile Group. 

The group met Monday at Franklin Memorial Hospital with Joe Higgins of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands Snowmobile Program to share those concerns and begin addressing them.

Shiretown Riders Snowmobile Club President Joe LaBelle said the biggest issue is maintaining and grooming the trails. Many clubs are seeing a decrease in membership, he said, and only a portion of members turn out to work on the trails. Those who groom the trails are getting older. 

“Ten years from now, at the rate we’re going, the sport will be dead,” LaBelle said.

“It’s not just you; it’s a statewide problem,” Higgins said. “Only a small percentage of members actually help on the trails.”

Twenty-one representatives from Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Vienna and Wilton clubs attended the meeting. Those clubs maintain more than 270 miles of trails. 

Snowmobiling in Maine is a $330 million industry. There are about 65,000 snowmobiles registered in Maine, with 15,000 to 18,000 belonging to nonresidents. The most registered in a year was 101,000 and the least, 59,000, Higgins said.

The state has a 4,000-mile Interconnected Trails System. Snowmobile clubs maintain an additional 10,000 miles.

“There are more snowmobile trails in the state than roads maintained by the Department of Transportation,” Higgins said.

There are just over 8,200 miles of state jurisdiction highway.

“When holes start developing in the trail system, we’re in trouble,” Higgins said. “A lot of blood and sweat went into these trails over the years. It would be sad to see the trails lost.”

The local trails are just as important, Higgins said, as snowmobiling is important for the local economy.

“95 percent of the trails are on privately owned land. Landowners graciously allow the sport and without their permission the trail system wouldn’t exist. To help retain these trails, users should always stay on marked trails and respect other users,” Higgins said.

He suggested letting landowners know there might be maintenance issues. He also suggested asking skiers, snowshoers, mountain bikers and others who use the trails for help by publicizing work days with posters in local stores.

Holding an annual fun day the whole family could enjoy was also suggested to raise awareness, Higgins said. It may take a few years for it to catch on, he said. 

Western Foothills Snowmobile Group decided its first priority is to develop a map of local trails. The map would benefit community members, visitors and local emergency personnel. 

For more information, call LaBelle at 207-491-1765.

[email protected] 

Franklin County Snowmobile Clubs 

• Andy Valley Riders, P.O. Box 307, Jay, ME 04239.

• Chesterville Country Ramblers, c/o John Starrett, P.O. Box 808, Farmington ME 04938

• J.V. Wing, 1014 Poplar Stream Road, Carrabassett Valley, ME 04947.

• Narrow Gauge, P.O. Box 14, Strong ME 04983.

• New Sharon Snow Riders, P.O. Box 193, New Sharon, ME 04955.

• New Vineyard North, 87 Lake St., New Vineyard, ME 04956.

• New Vineyard Trailmasters, 394 Fairbanks Road, Farmington, ME 04938.

• North Franklin, P.O. Box 386, Phillips, ME 04966.

• Northern Lights, P.O. Box 857, Farmington, ME 05938.

• Rangeley Lakes, P.O. Box 950, Rangeley, ME 05970.

• Salem Sno Drifters, P.O. Box 379, Strong, ME 04983.

• Shiretown Riders, 124 Russells Mill Road, Farmington, ME 04938.

• Sno Wanderers, PO Box 12, Kingfield, ME 04947.

• Vienna Mountaineers, 627 Cape Cod Hill Road, New Sharon, ME 04955.

• Webb River Valley, 40 Francis Place, Carthage ME 04224

• Weld Winter Wildcats, 189 Center Hill Road, Weld, ME 04285

• Woodland Wanderers, P.O. Box 638, Wilton, ME 04294.

Town offices should also have information about when and where local clubs meet. The Maine Snowmobile Association website, mesnow.com, is another source of information; or contact the association at 207-622-6983.


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