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X-country group says Sault trail use fee higher than most
Conservation Authority seeks more than $10,000

Reported August 4, 2006 by Elaine Della-Mattia for The Sault Star
Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

The chair of a province wide organization for cross-country skiing said it’s unusual for a landowner to ask for large amounts of money from ski club operators.

“Northern Ontario cities have well-established community facilities and that’s what makes them good facilities,” said Jim McCarthy, chair of Cross Country Ontario.

He said only two members of his 85-club organization are commercial operators of Nordic ski trails - Hardwood Hills in Orillia and Highlands Nordic in Collingwood.

Most of the clubs are not required to pay hefty fees for the land use and he has never seen a situation with ski trail use such as the one brewing in Sault Ste. Marie, he said.

The Sault Ste. Marie Conservation Authority is seeking more than $10,000 for use of its facilities for the season.

“A lot of ski trails are located in provincial park areas and there is not a lot of money paid out to use those trails,” he said in a telephone interview from Ottawa.

Cross Country Ontario is the recognized provincial sports organization for cross-country skiing in the province and serves as an umbrella organization for more than 85 ski clubs.

It receives some provincial money and does its own fundraising to produce provincial teams and national teams for competition. It also trains local clubs to operate Cross Country Canada programming such as the children’s jackrabbit ski program.

McCarthy said most Nordic ski trails are operated by service clubs or not-for-profit organizations that recruit volunteers to maintain and operate the trail system because of their love for skiing.

McCarthy said Sault Ste. Marie has one of the top 15 trail systems in Ontario and it could be in jeopardy if the trail system is fragmented due to land ownership.

“I’m not trying to mandate a solution, other than to say it works best when one group runs and operates the show,” he said.

McCarthy noted that it is often easier for community groups to run ski clubs in smaller centres like Sault Ste. Marie because there is more of a community focus and more people know the club exists.

For years, the entire Hiawatha Highlands trail system was managed and operated by Sault Trails and Recreation (STAR), a groups that included the Kinsmen Club, Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club and the Conservation Authority.

STAR dissolved this spring and its assets were turned over to the Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club after it and the Conservation Authority both submitted proposals to the Kinsmen Club.

The Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club and a private entrepreneur, Heyden Adventure Base Camp, have now submitted proposals to the Conservation Authority to run their 16 kilometres of trail.

The Conservation Authority Board is seeking advice from the city solicitor on its request for proposal process and what possible next steps it can take.

Mayor John Roswell, a Conservation Authority Board member, has suggested that the board scrap the existing request for proposals and begin the process again.