HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The National Capital Region is blessed with more than 100 kilometres of groomed trails for cross-country skiers, snowshoers and fat-tire cyclists. And the trails have been a hot spot this winter.
After eight months of being housebound much more than normal because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of getting outside in the cold, fresh air for some exercise seemed to be a good prescription to fight back on many fronts.
But to have those perfectly groomed trails, major pieces of the puzzle have had to snap together across the region. There must be a leader(s), an enthusiastic group of volunteers, and proper machines and grooming devices.
The first two pieces are solidly in place. But when it comes to the heavy items that patrol the trails and set the free-skate or classic courses, the calls have been put out for financial help to purchase more equipment.
Nakkertok Nordic, the country’s largest and most successful cross-country ski club in Cantley, Que., the Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail and the Rideau Winter Trail of Ottawa are at various stages of fundraising.
Besides those three nordic groups, there are at least four others providing more than 50 kilometres of multi-use winter trails: SkiONSC, Ottawa West Winter Trail, Britannia Winter Trail and Ski Heritage East.
Nakkertok is working on a major fundraiser to buy a new groomer to replace the oldest and least trustworthy of its two machines, which is 29 years old. As of Friday morning, the club has raised $39,240 towards its $50,000+ goal.
A new groomer will cost more than $300,000. But the Quebec government has a grant program that will cover between 50 and 60 per cent of the cost before March 21, if Nakkertok’s application meets all of the eligibility criteria.
Nakkertok plans to cover the remainder of the cost of the groomer with more fundraising, capital reserves and loans.
“Currently, we are relying 100% on the eight-year-old PB100 (groomer) with 4,000 hours on it,” head groomer Dirk Van Wijk advised Nakkertok members. “The machines are working harder and longer with the early Nakkertok season.”
The Sir John A Macdonald Winter Trails, which run parallel to the Ottawa River in the west end, have surpassed their goal of $25,000 by raising $28,060. It will continue to receive contributions until March 15.
Trail officials need a new snowmobile to replace its original and now unreliable machine, which it received five years ago from the NCC.
“Repairs take time and money away from grooming operations,” a press release noted.
The Rideau Winter Trail of Ottawa, covering Overbrook, Sandy Hill and Vanier, has entered into its second $14,000 fundraising project. The first $14,350 allowed trails to be expanded to nine kilometres from three kilometres.
The second $14,000 project will purchase a commercially-built grooming drag for the 2021-22 season. Officials also plan to extend the trails from Donald Street to Bank Street and then to Mooney’s Bay.
In its first year, Rideau Winter Trail received a used ATV, and was given a grooming device by Nakkertok Nordic. Volunteers also are building and/or modifying more equipment for its trails.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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