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Falmouth cross-country teams help groom park trails

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Falmouth cross-country teams help groom park trails

FALMOUTH — The Falmouth Middle and High School cross-country ski teams had to scramble this season to come up with a place to practice.

Construction on the new elementary school rendered the trails on the schools' campus off limits, Falmouth Middle School co-coach Cindy Talbot said. And practicing at Twin Brook in Cumberland or at Riverside Golf Course in Portland would have cost money – money that would be added onto the costs borne by the teams and the Falmouth Ski Club, the booster organization that raises support for both Nordic and alpine skiing for the middle and high schools.

While the sport is sanctioned, it is not fully funded, Talbot said. Funding pays for partial coaching and transportation to meets only. Other costs, including race fees, uniforms, transportation to training and grooming equipment, is paid for by funds raised by the club and by participation fees.

So the two teams of 30 students each, and their coaches, Talbot and Louise Abramson for the middle school, and Jeff Walker and James Demer for the high school, chose to practice at Falmouth Community Park, just a short bus ride away, Talbot said.

"The town owns grooming equipment and we have grooming equipment, so we combine efforts and work on Community Park," she said.

Though Parks and Public Works Parks Supervisor Jeff Mason has kept the trails at the park groomed in the past, and continues to do much of the work this year, a couple of ski club parent volunteers have pitched in to drive the snowmobile towing the apparatus that makes the parallel tracks for the skis, Talbot said.

"Our hope is that we can build this year and work the bugs out so next year we can continue to have the school teams train there and also provide a place for the community to ski," Talbot said. "When the snow gets deep, it's hard to effectively ski the way these kids need to for races."

The approximately eight kilometers of trail must be groomed after every storm and every two to three days between storms, she said.

"(Parents) Tom Clements and Tim Follo often have to be out there in the middle of the night," Talbot said.

Not only do the school teams use the trails, but another 30 students from the third- to fifth-grade rec program use them as well. And they are open for use by the general public.

But there's a problem with the trails that Talbot and others are hoping a little education can take care of.

The problem is people, their snowmobiles and their dogs.

There is a snowmobile trail in the park that is maintained by the Snow Voyagers Snowmobile Club, an organization that Talbot said has been very cooperative. But some snowmobilers don't realize that riding their machines along the groomed trails can ruin them for skiers, she said.

In addition, people who walk on the trails can make large holes when their boots sink into a soft patch of snow – holes that can trip up a nordic skier and can become even more dangerous when they freeze.

But possibly the most unpleasant problem for a skier is plowing through dog excrement while skating along the tracks.

The high school team and parents planned to put up signs this week to help educate people about the importance of taking good care of the trails, Talbot said. And the ski club hopes its efforts will pay off not only for this year but in years to come.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.