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Local ski club celebrates grant

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The Rainy Lake Nordic Ski Club now will be able to better maintain and groom its trails at Rocky Inlet since receiving a sizeable grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

A group of club members held a breakfast at the trails Thursday morning to celebrate the announcement.

The funding totals $43,600, which will be used to purchase a snowmachine, tractor/mower, and ski equipment that will allow users of the trails to get more out of them each year.

“For us, it kind of expands our ability to be able to mow, and even do the work to smooth out some trails so that we can maybe expand the season a little bit,” said club president JoAnne Formanek Gustafson.

“We might get to go on the trails a week or two earlier in the season and possibly extend into the spring, depending on conditions,” she noted.

“With mowing, we now hope we can do a little summer and fall mowing—in the spring, it's too wet out here.”

During the summer season, it's been difficult for people to use the trails. But with the mower, Formanek Gustafson said they plan to clear a kilometre or two for people to access.

“We've had people express interest in bringing bikes out here so if it was mowed, that would make it a little more passable for people,” she explained.

Formanek Gustafson and the rest of the club members, meantime, are extremely thankful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for providing much-needed funding.

A lot of club-raised money also has been put into the trails and infrastructure that supports them.

The chalet, for example, was built entirely from donations of materials and labour.

The club's garage, where equipment is held, was part of a $51,000 grant received back in 2002.

“What the OTF funding does for us is it give us the opportunity to expand and have more people being active,” Formanek Gustafson lauded.

Last season, the club had roughly 700 day uses—and hopes that number will grow as the trails are better improved and maintained.

“We do actually have some people who come and use the trails from over in the States, too,” Formanek Gustafson noted.

"It's a variety.

“They have their own little system there, so this is just a little different of a course then theirs and changes things up for them,” she reasoned.

In terms of club improvements, a stadium area has been in the works to create a space where people can start and end races.

“We did the major clearing for that last year," Formanek Gustafson said. "So this year, we would like to get in there and just clean that area up a little bit more in terms of getting rid of stumps and stuff.”

She added another one of the projects they will be focusing on going forward is to build a barn to provide a shelter for grooming equipment.

“Just to keep the weather off of it," Formanek Gustafson explained. "It's just kind of protecting our investment a little more.”

With the weather finally warming up, meanwhile, the cross-country skiing season may be over for another year.

“It's a day-to-day thing at this point in the season," Formanek Gustafson said. ”Last year, they managed to extend the season from some warm weather by probably three weeks.

“This year is hard to tell.”

Ski club members have their fingers crossed but said things aren't looking to good with temperatures forecast to be well above zero C all of this week.

Formanek Gustafson would like to thank all those who volunteer their time to make the Rocky Inlet trails a great place to visit.

“I'd say the success of the club is entirely due to a really great volunteer base within the club,” she stressed.

"Our groomers, our maintenance people, everybody who helps build what we have and do the new trail work.

“They're all volunteers and it continues to amaze me what a great volunteer base we have here,” she lauded.

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