Ski club developing trail systems

The Rainy Lake Nordic Ski Club is on the right track to develop three trail systems—at Eighth Street, Rocky Inlet Road, and Reef Point Road—thanks to recent public, municipal, and possible provincial support.
“The support has been excellent,” said vice-president Dr. Pierre Mikhail, noting the club has just over 60 names of people showing interest in lending a hand.
“We’ve had fundraising and some people who have put in a very good effort into it,” he added.
The club held its general meeting Dec. 19 to discuss some of the challenges that lie ahead.
So far, $8,000 has been raised privately and the Northwestern Health Unit has donated $1,200 for safety signs. An application also has been sent to the Ontario government’s Trillium Foundation for a $25,000 grant.
They club also received a land use permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources last spring, which allows it to develop trails on Crown land.
But Dr. Mikhail said the turning point came in early October when Fort Frances council offered—in principle—support after a presentation led by club president Dr. Cam Moorhouse highlighted the benefits of having cross-country ski trails in the area, including “personal fitness, recreational pleasure, and economic development.”
He also stressed the trails could be used during the summer months for such activities as mountain biking and hiking.
“[Council’s decision to back the project] was really positive for us,” said Dr. Mikhail.
The club plans to develop 20-30 km of usable trails within the next one to two years. The one at Rocky Inlet Road, for instance, will be made wider to accommodate classical cross-country and skate-skiing.
According to the club’s presentation to council, the estimated cost to refurbish the trail system is $5,000 per km, in addition to the costs for a day lodge, parking lot, lighting for four km of night skiing, signage, advertising, and grooming and brushing equipment.
The trail at Reef Point Road currently is in the state of most disrepair. But the club has purchased its own brush cutters and chainsaws, and has seen steady cleaning by volunteers.
“There’s so much land out there that just needs developing,” Dr. Mikhail said “We’ve sent volunteer work crews [of six or seven people] every week.”
Meanwhile, a “jack rabbit” ski program for beginners also is in the works. Dr. Mikhail said instructors from the Lake Superior ski division in Thunder Bay will visit in the coming months to give some preliminary lessons to local youngsters.
“Realistically, the full [jack rabbit] programs probably won’t come together until next winter,” he noted. “They’ll be lots of opportunities for kids to become better skiers.”
But Dr. Mikhail admitted there’s a lot of work yet to be done. So far, only he, Dr. Moorhouse, and treasurer Denise Rybuck make up the club’s executive.
“We’re strictly non-profit but we have suggested club membership fees,” he said. “Our fees are $25 for a family per year but really anyone can access the trails once they’re completed.”