PORTAGE, Maine — The heat of summer may be on the minds of most lately, but members of at least one local group are thinking ahead to the dead of winter, thanks to the recent acquisition of a snowmobile trail groomer to replace one damaged earlier this year.
“March 26 was a terrifying day for the Portage Lakers Snowmobile Club. The club groomer, as well as operator Ken Fones, went through the ice on Portage Lake,” said PLSC President Jennifer Curran.
“Thankfully Kenny walked away from the incident fairly unscathed, which then allowed the club to move forward,” Curran said.
The club is now looking ahead to acquiring a new groomer and building new trails to avoid having to go over the lake.
“Portage is a fabulous community and as always pulled together to turn what could have been a tragic story into a story of excitement, positive news and progress,” said Curran.
During a tour this spring of Kassbohrer All Terrain Vehicles in Lewiston, club officers signed a purchase and sales agreement on a new 2013 PistenBully TrailBully groomer for $172,000.
“The club will apply for a capital equipment grant in April 2014, with hopes of some financial assistance. But we’re planning for a worst case scenario, which is $0 in grant funds, leaving the club with an approximate annual payment of $17,000 for at least seven years. The expected delivery date of the machine has been set for Dec. 2,” said Curran.
The new machine features a side-by-side cab that will allow operators to take a friend along, making those long minus-20 degree nights a little more enjoyable.
“Interest from new operators has already started pouring in. These new candidates will watch a safety DVD and will be administered a 60-question test which will then be turned in to the Department of Conservation,” Curran said.
“Upon passing the exam,” said Curran, “the operator will be given a certificate of completion and can then join the ranks of official groomer operator.
“With this energy and excitement, the Portage Lakers look forward to a fantastic year of smooth trails,” she said.
Club members have more than the groomer to contend with, since summer is when area trail work is performed.
“An undertaking of even larger magnitude that was started this spring is the reroute of ITS 85 north (Eagle Lake trail), which has an estimated $50,000 price tag. The club will be applying for an RTP Grant in November of this year but due to the timing will need to expend the monies now and hope for the best for at least partial reimbursement,” said the club president.
“After communications with all landowners involved — Prentiss & Carlisle, Irving Woodlands and the town of Portage Lake — it was decided that the safest option for our club was to discontinue crossing the lake,” said Jim Dumond, the club’s safety officer. “The new trail will run south for a bit to avoid the lake and Fish River, will then run adjacent to the Hewes Brook Road, crossing the Hewes Brook Bridge, and meet back up with the existing Eagle Lake trail.”
Drummond and Club Officer Fones have taken the lead on this project. Currently small bridges are being built and new pathways are already being cleared.
“The new trail will offer many scenic views of Portage Lake; I can’t wait to ride these beautiful, straight trails,” said Fones. Snowmobilers should “be sure to plan ahead for the 2013-14 riding season in Portage Lake to see these gorgeous views.”
Curran said months of work remain and volunteers will be needed.
“Please contact any club official if you are interested in helping out. Your membership and financial contributions are appreciated,” she said.