The Nopiming Sno-Mads Snowmobile Club is a small club of about 70 members located in the southern part of Nopiming Provincial Park. One of the unique challenges that our small club faces is that very few members actually live in the area. Therefore, we rely heavily on weekend volunteers for trail clearing and club projects. It is a lot to ask of a volunteer to give up an entire Saturday for trail clearing when the weekend out at the cottage is intended to be spent with the family.
Last fall, we decided to tackle a new project and opened up a 1.3-kilometre trail between Booster and Flanders lakes and extend Trail 234 (known locally as TJ’s Way) and connect it to Trail 232 located on Flanders Lake. The new 1.3-kilometre trail would allow us to extend Trail 234, which was currently a dead end trail on the west shore of Booster Lake. The small trail extension would allow us to peg Booster Lake and add about eight kilometres of additional trail to our system, but more importantly, it would link an existing dead end trail into the rest of our trail system.
Our challenge was that we could not get heavy machinery into the area as it was between two lakes with no easy way to gain access other than by boat or a walking trail. We knew we needed a lot of volunteers to cut down trees and remove brush, but how to get enough help in order to get the job done before snowfall? Trail clearing is hard work, and many of us are exhausted after putting in a full day of cutting, brushing and hauling, not to mention that our spouses are less than thrilled to come to the cottage only to be left alone.
We decided to try something new and only ask volunteers to give up a half day instead of a full day. We would increase the amount of volunteer weekends but reduce the time we were asking volunteers to work on a given Saturday. Well, to our surprise we started to see a dramatic increase in volunteers as many were willing to give up half of a day as it was a good compromise between club support and family time. In fact, we were getting over 20 volunteers on some weekends, and it became a logistical challenge to make sure we could fully maximize all this extra help. Wow, what a good problem to have for a change!
What we also realized was that we were not always getting the same volunteers every weekend, but in fact we were getting different volunteers from one weekend to the next. This was a big change from what we were used to getting, which was the same small group of volunteers doing the majority of the work. Another unique aspect that we realized was that members were bringing out friends and neighbours who were not members because a half day of trail clearing was more like a social event and a chance to meet new people, as opposed to a full day of hard work.
The other big factor in increased volunteer support was good communication. If we gave members plenty of notice and good information, we were more likely to get good volunteer support.
We sure learnt a lot about our volunteer support group. What we thought was perhaps a lack of volunteer enthusiasm was due to a lack of understanding about what our volunteers were able to give us. We now better understand that our volunteers have difficult choices to make about supporting our club and giving precious time to their families at the cottage. If we give them plenty of notice and good information, and make our volunteer requests reasonable, they will come out and support us in full force.
This year, we have another large project planned as we want to clear space for a new groomer shed that we hope to someday be able to construct. Because we do not have proper facilities, we have struggled with groomer equipment maintenance and repairs. This has led to frequent breakdowns and an inability to regularly groom all of our trails. Our hope is to someday have a proper facility to perform maintenance and repairs, and keep our groomers out of the cold when not in use. This year, we are again relying heavily on volunteer support to clear an area for the proposed groomer shed and we plan on taking the same approach as last year, asking for a half-day support. I feel confident that we will get the same great volunteer support that we saw last year.