Snowmobile shelter lost to fire

Manitoba snowmobile club is devastated by the loss of its newest snowmobile shelter

by Maureen Sorokowski, South East Sno-Riders, Woodridge, Manitoba

Picture of burnt-out shelter.
Photo: Maureen Sorokowski

The South East Sno-Riders, based in Woodridge, Manitoba, are devastated by the loss of a new snowmobile shelter to a recent fire. The shelter was in place for a mere 26 days, and its loss means that for the foreseeable future, there are no warm-up shelters on the club’s trail system from Steinbach to Boarderbusters.

For now, though it’s not the same as a shelter in the bush, there are a few restaurants in some of the nearby towns where snowmobilers can get a bite to eat and a chance to warm up.

Maureen Sorokowski, who describes herself as a proud member of the South East Sno-Riders, sent in this background on the club’s efforts to build and maintain shelters on the trail.

In the early to mid-’90s there was an old Government Trail northeast of Marchand that had a three-sided open shelter for snowmobilers. Two members of the South East Sno-Riders, Richard Kihn and Gerry Henry, thought it would be a good idea to close in the shelter, but it was too old and in bad shape.

The guys then decided it was time to build a new shelter and use the old one for a wood shed. Several men and women gathered together and started to build the walls and roof for the new shelter at Gerry’s place in Sandilands. Some of the material used to build the new shelter was purchased by the South East Sno-Riders and some was donated.

Once the frame (walls and roof) were built, they were put on a trailer and taken from Sandilands to the highway where they met up with Joe Fournier (Tomahawk). The frame was then transferred onto a sleigh that Joe had brought from Woodridge. It is said that Joe hitched the sleigh to the back of his truck and drove down the highway with sparks flying out behind him and laughing all the way.

A shelter called Annette’s

Vintage picture of shelter known as 'Annette's Place'.
Photo: Maureen Sorokowski

The frame was then transferred by the Tucker into the bush where it was put together and was now ready to be used as the new warm-up shelter. This new shelter was named Annette’s and stayed at this location until 2006. It seemed that this original location (the old Government Trail) was in the swamp and very rarely froze. There were many times when grooming that the BR160 would get stuck. Then it happened. The BR160 sunk in the swamp. It was very costly to fix the BR so it was then decided to move the shelter to a different location out of the swamp.

Out of the swamp to the Voyageur Trail

Members of the snowmobile club were called and asked to come help move the shelter. Early one Saturday morning many volunteers got together and prepared the shelter to be moved. It took two days, lots of volunteers and the BR to move it. On Sunday in the early evening the shelter was in its new location, which was in a valley on the steel line behind Marchand Park. As this new location was on the Voyageur Trail, the shelter was renamed The Voyageur.

Picture of shelter called 'Voyageur'
Photo: Maureen Sorokowski

This new location was southeast of Marchand, Manitoba. Over the next 10 years this shelter has been vandalized, had the wood stove stolen more than once, and the windows, solar panels, batteries and firewood were also stolen. There were also several fires set in the summertime all around and close to the shelter. In 2016 it was decided that, due to the thefts, vandalism and fires, the shelter needed to be removed from its current location.

A portable shelter is born

The shelter was then hauled to the groomer shed in Woodridge. In November 2016, the board of the South East Sno-Riders voted to purchase a van body and turn it into a portable shelter. It would be moved into the bush in the winter and taken out in the spring. This would be done every year to cut down on the thefts, vandalism and fires. Well, that was the plan.

Picture of portable shelter.
Photo: Maureen Sorokowski

Between Christmas and New Year’s, four very dedicated volunteers and members of the South East Sno-Riders (Jeff Sorokowski, Emile Beaudoin, and Marc and Mona Collette) spent their entire Christmas holiday transforming the van body into a warm-up shelter for all snowmobilers that ride the trails in the southeast of our province.  They did a great job on the shelter and it was made up to be a very inviting and comfortable place to take a rest, warm up and even make a hotdog or two on the wood stove.

The shelter was moved to its new location on Trail 58 and Fire Guard 15 on January 2, 2017. The new location was 13 kilometres north of Woodridge.

A terrible loss for the club

Sometime in the late night of January 27th or the early morning hours of January 28th the new shelter was set ablaze.  The shelter was there a total of 26 days.  There is still part of the shell standing as well as the wood stove, but that is it. Someone, or a group of people, took it upon themselves to burn down the new shelter.

Why, you ask? Well, we ask the same question. This shelter was for the snowmobilers and their families to relax and warm up in while out together enjoying the great winter sport of snowmobiling.  It is so sad that there are people out there that just don’t care and feel it is OK to do something as terrible as burning down a warm-up shelter.

The South East Sno-Riders feel terrible that this has happened.  We know that whether you are with your kids or your friends or just out for a little ride by yourself, you would have enjoyed this shelter.

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