- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
CUMBERLAND — After a month of flirting with snow, local snowmobilers are finally up to their handlebars with it. And with 20 inches on the ground after storms last weekend, the Moonlite Sno-skimmers – a snowmobile club in Cumberland and North Yarmouth – can finally kick their operations into full gear.
While most snowmobile riders head north to ride, Sno-skimmers officer Shawn McBreairty said, local trails are plentiful, with about 30 miles maintained by the club in both towns. And those trails, he said, connect to those maintained by neighboring towns, making a network of safe, dragged, family-friendly and publicly accessible trails across much of the state.
In addition to maintaining bridges, cutting brush, dragging snow and signing trails and crossings, the club keeps up-to-date maps of all its trails and works with the towns and local landowners to maintain access.
While the manual labor is difficult, McBreairty said that access is the real issue the club deals with each year.
“Not everyone is a fan of snowmobiling,” McBreairty said, and because of that, trails are disappearing. “When I was a kid, there were a lot of fields to ride in. Now, housing developments have pushed the trail network farther out of town.”
The town has been helpful, he said, rebuilding the Turkey Lane Bridge this year to give safe access to riders and providing a clubhouse facility at Val Halla, where the club stores trail maintenance equipment. But it’s private landowners that the club tries hard to keep happy, McBreairty said, since a huge percentage of the trail system is on private land.
While, thanks to cooperation from Central Maine Power Co., power line rights of way give snowmobilers a consistent access point, he said, “trying to get to the power lines is the issue.”
The club’s purpose is to stay organized, provide approved trails and hold its members and other local snowmobile riders accountable for their actions.
While the club can’t police renegade riders who upset neighbors and landowners, McBreairty said, it can provide the access to keep honest riders honest. And it can groom trails that make sense for landowners – along only one side of a property, for example – to keep everybody happy.
The group’s hope this season is to continue informing the community as well as increasing involvement. The club’s 30 to 40 members volunteer their time to clear and maintain trails that get used by snowmobilers as well as snowshoers, cross country skiers and dog walkers. It’s a shame, McBreairty said, that many people access the trails without supporting – through manpower or a $30 membership fee – the work that gets done.
Overall, McBreairty said, the Sno-skimmers are for people like him who just enjoy the sport and being in town – and appreciate a close, easy place to take kids and families out for a ride.
“I just enjoy getting out into the wilderness,” he said, “into areas you couldn’t normally see in winter.”
• FYI: The Moonlite Sno-skimmers meet every first and third Wednesday at Toddy Brook in North Yarmouth at 7 p.m. Information and trail maps are available at the Web site, moonlitesno-skimmers.com.
Sno-skimmer volunteers Harry Larrabee, left, Mike Lovering, Joe Arsenault and Brendon Keith check out a bridge along a portion of the 30 miles of snowmobile trails their club maintains in Cumberland and North Yarmouth. They worked to level the bridge before Sunday’s snowstorm hit to make it passable for the season.