Popular trail lost to snowmobilers

Uxbridge snowmobile aficionados have lost a popular access route to their network of trails through northern Ontario.

On January 13, the Heart of Ontario Snowmobile Club, based in Cannington, announced on its Facebook page that it would no longer be maintaining the old rail bed between Lake Ridge Road and Simcoe Street in Scugog, and would therefore be closing the trail to snowmobile traffic. The Heart of Ontario club, one of more than 180 local clubs across the province, is also responsible for Uxbridge.

The Facebook post says that after many years of maintaining that section of the rail bed, the club was unable to reach a new contract with the province, which owns the track. Another section of the trail, running between Uxbridge’s Main Street (Regional Road 1) and Lake Ridge, is leased and maintained by the Township of Uxbridge as part of its trail system. It’s known as the McCutcheon Trail, after longtime local trail advocate John McCutcheon.

“The McCutcheon trail is one of only three in the township where snowmobiles share the track with other users like skiers, hikers or cyclists,” says Township of Uxbridge recreation director Amanda Ferraro. “Our only condition for snowmobile use was that the club lay down a rubberized surface on the old trestle bridge that was recently restored, to prevent wear and tear on the wood. That surface was put down last October for this season, so our part of the rail bed is still open to snowmobilers.”

However, without being able to continue along the rail bed through Scugog to Lindsay, Fenelon Falls and beyond, snowmobilers are likely to largely abandon the Uxbridge section as well. Travelling the section from Main to Lake Ridge and back isn’t much of a ride. And other users of the Scugog section may not have much longer to enjoy the route, either.

“I’d be surprised if the trail hasn’t deteriorated significantly already,” says Heart of Ontario president Dave Myrshall. “There’s a lot of water crossings, a lot of wildlife. It needs considerable regular maintenance, and that’s why it cost the club so much. We bore the burden on behalf of the other users, but the province wouldn’t help us at all. We just couldn’t afford it any more, it was too much of a drain on the work that needed to be done on all our other trails.”

In the Facebook post, Myrshall says he hopes the closure is only a temporary setback.

“We encourage anyone with concerns to contact their local and regional council members, and their MPPs. This is a beautiful and popular trail, and deserves to be open to everyone.”

Conrad Boyce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Uxbridge Cosmos