Does Millinocket Want Snowmobiling Visitors?

We are being asked why the Jo Mary Riders Snowmobile Club is no longer grooming the trail between South Twin Lake and the West end of the Suspension Bridge trail. The answer lies with the Millinocket Town Council! Here’s why…

This trail runs from South Twin Lake to Millinocket, crosses the Penobscot River via a new $220,000 suspension bridge, and gives riders an opportunity to go directly into downtown Millinocket, or to follow a route that takes riders to ITS 86 just north of the Northern Timber Cruisers (NTC) clubhouse.

Grooming the Suspension Bridge Trail

In the past, the Jo Mary Riders (JMR) groomed a 4.5 miles section of this trail – from South Twin Lake to the suspension bridge. The trail has many sharp corners, hills, narrow sections due to extensive ditching, and even a bridge that is on a corner. It is a very difficult trail to groom due to the terrain and high traffic volume.

Over the past two winters, the JMR groomer operators have found that in order to “make the trail right” they had to groom it twice – one pass with the groomer was just not enough (JMR’s operators pride themselves on providing high quality trails and if they groom it, it’s going to be done correctly).

Here’s a breakdown of the time spent grooming that trail during the previous two seasons, and what has been done so far this winter:

  • 2010 – 2011: Started grooming 1/13 and ended on 4/2
    103.1 hours spent on that trail (includes two trips all the way to the park downtown and one trip all the way to the NTC club house), a value of $7,629.
  • 2011 – 2012: Started grooming on 1/23 and ended on 3/9
    46.1 hours (6 week season with very little snow), a value of $3,411.
  • 2012 – 2013: Started grooming on 12/27, last groomed 1/16
    22.9 hours already spent on that trail, a value of $1,695.

That’s a total of 172.1 hours for a groomer and operator. At the standard rate of $74 per hour set by the state, that’s worth $12,735!

Trail Funding Cutbacks

When the trail finally opened in the winter of 2010-2011, our grant had already been locked in place during November of 2010. We did receive additional funding from the State to groom the new Black Pond trail, but nothing for the Suspension Bridge trail. Nevertheless, we groomed it anyway for that season, and for last year’s short season.

Because of the lack of registrations that the State received last year, all snowmobile grants were cut back by 10% at the end of last season. In anticipation of another funding shortfall this year, grants were cut by 10% again for this season – at least we knew it in advance this year and could plan accordingly.

Millinocket’s Town Council

On December 13, 2012, JMR club president Rick LeVasseur called one of the Millinocket Town Council members to see about getting on the agenda to speak in front of the Town Council. He simply wanted to ask the Council for some sort of financial assistance for the Jo Mary Riders’ efforts in grooming the “new” Suspension Bridge (aka “Millinocket”) Trail.

As a result of the December 13th phone call, the club was tentatively scheduled to speak to the council on December 27th. There was a big snowstorm that night, so the meeting was cancelled. The club then asked to be on the agenda for the January 10th council meeting. Initially, the club was put on the agenda, but then some things happened in town that required lots of Council time, so the Town Manager called in advance of the meeting and said that they would not be able to hear from the club at that time. No problem – they then put the club on the agenda for January 24th.

On Friday, January 18 at 2:45 pm, the Town Manager called to let us know that we had been taken off the agenda again. When asked if they were postponing us again, he said, “No, the Councilors don’t feel as though they need to listen to whatever it is that you want to say”.

At that point, JMR President LeVasseur told the Town manager (who had said that he was “just the messenger”) to take a message back to the Council, that “Effective immediately, the Jo Mary Riders will no longer groom the trail from South Twin Lake to the West Branch of the Penobscot River. If the Council doesn’t have time to listen to our concerns, then we don’t have the time to groom the trail.”

LeVasseur also informed the Town Manger that in June of 2012, the Jo Mary Riders gave the Town of Millinocket a check for $6,145.74 to help defray some of the costs that were incurred in building the new “Multi Use Trail” (multi-use meaning snowmobiles and atv’s – the same trail that we had been grooming a portion of). He was unaware of this fact, as he is only the acting Interim Town Manager.

There’s No Free Lunch

So in a nutshell, JMR was grooming a multi-use trail for which we received no public funding (state, county or local); a trail that we helped pay for the construction of, even though we are not an ATV club (we even had to pay $500 for a culvert that was installed at the Route 11 trail crossing); we lost 10% of our state grant last year; and we are faced with another 10% loss of funding this year.

And the Council doesn’t have time to listen to the club’s concerns, or those of its members (many of whom reside in Millinocket)?

Sorry, with that kind of attitude the council can groom it themselves.

We do feel bad for the riders visiting the area, and for the downtown businesses that will likely see a reduction in traffic. But the ball is now in the Millinocket Town Council’s court. Groom it yourself, or provide some funding for us to resume our grooming efforts.

It’s that simple.

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