Sunday, May 3, 2015

Windham Drifters thank landowners for another successful season - By Elizabeth Richards

The heavy snowfall this winter may have been frustrating for some, but for The Windham Drifters Snowmobile Club the snow meant a great winter of riding on the 48 miles of trails in Windham. These trails cross the land of approximately 120 private landowners who have granted the club permission to groom and maintain the trails on their property.
Mike Constantine said the club wants to extend a big thank you to all of the landowners. “Without them, we’re not here and the trail system is not here,” he said. A lot of people who use the trails don’t understand that the land used is owned by individual landowners, and the club must get permission to use this land each year. 

“We’re very conscious of being respectful to the landowners,” said club president Garnett Johnston. The club asks that those using the trails also respect the fact that they are on private land, often very close to landowner’s houses. 

The Windham Drifters is supported by membership dues, fundraisers, and some funding that comes directly from snowmobile registrations. No money from the general fund is used to support the club. Club fundraising activities include participation in community events like Summerfest and the Ice Fishing Derby, raffles and more. With some of the money raised, the club awards a scholarship each year to a student associated with the club.

Though financial support is important, volunteer support is even more vital. All the grooming and maintenance work is done by volunteers, and there are only a handful of people getting it done. “We have 1,000 registered sleds in the town of Windham and there are about 16 people that run the entire club,” said Joe Sayah. The trails require work every weekend during the season, he said, from building bridges to marking and grooming. 

Though volunteering for the club takes a lot of time away from just getting out and riding the trials, those who do it said they enjoy the work.            

“We do it because we like what we’re doing,” said Johnston, who has been involved for many years.
Rick Collins said that although it can be frustrating when it feels like they’re doing it all on their own, seeing families riding together and people enjoying the trails makes it all worth it. 

Shane Spencer agreed. “It’s a family sport,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m into it and support it.” Spencer said he’s been riding a snowmobile almost since he could walk, but sees the average age of snowmobilers continuing to rise, and the sport beginning to fade. “There are a lot of towns that don’t have snowmobile clubs that used to,” he said.

There are many ways to get involved said Constantine. “It doesn’t have to be somebody who can run a chain saw,” he said. “There’s so many things that we need help with. Whatever their talent is we can use it.”

It isn’t necessary to join the club to volunteer, said Collins, though as a member volunteers are covered by the club’s insurance while working on the trails. And you don’t need to snowmobile to volunteer or to enjoy the trails. “There are people that support us as a club that have never been on a snowmobile in their lives,” says Collins. “They just like the trail system to be able to ski or whatever it is they do in the wintertime to make the long winters not seem so long,” he said.

The Drifters wrapped up their season with the purchase of a new Pisten Bully groomer, which is slightly larger and newer than the machines they have been using. This purchase was the next step for the club, and the new groomer has a little more power, and they hope, a little less maintenance necessary. The club sold an older groomer, which helped pay for the new machine. They bought the machine, said Johnston, to give them a more user friendly machine and help keep the club moving forward.

The club currently has approximately 65 to 70 members, including about 15 business memberships. One of their biggest supporters, said Constantine, is Richardson’s Boat Yard, where their club shed is located and equipment is stored. The trails in Windham attract people from all over the area, including some out of state riders, said members. 

Though the riding season is over, there is work to be done year round. Anyone wishing to get involved can contact the club through their website or Facebook page.

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