As the last of the snow melts away, the Woodridge ATV Sandhogs are getting ready to hit the trails in southeast Manitoba.
President of the club, Gary Hora, says there is still a fair bit of snow in some spots, especially in places where it would have drifted onto trails.
“Some of our riders noticed a 4-foot drift along a trail recently. Apparently, a snowmobile was the only machine to be able to make it over. I feel like we’re living in a “Groundhog Day” movie lately, as every week it seems like we’ve got another Colorado Low.”
In the meantime, Hora says what the southeast really needs these days is heat and timely rains to help things start to green up. “We do have rain in the forecast, which is good because nothing is greening up at this point. But we also do need that heat to activate vegetational growth. If it remains really, really dry and windy, all that dead dried-out vegetation from the fall into the spring, you know, and the grasses and stuff can ignite. So, a fire hazard could be a potential, but hopefully, we'll have those timely rains. That will make a big difference.”
Hora says as the ATV club is officially opening up its trails, he notes their volunteers have been very busy these last few days. Reposting some signs and changing up some signage.
“We also removed the bags off of some signs where we have shared trails with the SnoRiders Club because in winter we bag those signs and encourage people to stay off of them and let the snowmobilers have their time. Now that that season is over, we go and remove those signs.”
Hora notes as they ride the trails, they have noticed some deadfall from trees that have fallen, which they are in the process of cleaning up.
“We are also assessing the trail to make a list of what repairs need to be done through the spring and the summer and start making that to-do-list of the initial prep for the first few weeks once we get the trails opened up.”
Hora explains what it means to announce the ATV trail system open.
“When we officially claim the trail to be open, we mean that we have at least run the whole trail system and deemed it safe. We do maintain it and we deem it safe so that it's clear of obstacles. At that point or hazards. Until that point it is, you know, rider beware, be cautious, you may run across fallen trees or stuff like that. And these are hazards that we have not addressed. So, the trail is open, in a sense, but use caution, until we actually officially open it.”
Hora speaks well of the ATV riders in the area.
“It is a tight-knit community. Most people who go riding, ride in groups, and you can have varying levels of experience. Typically, you're not going to have a group that's just all new to the sport. They're usually riding with somebody who's ridden for a while because they know the trails and they'll be leading the crew.”
“We've noticed, you know from COVID in the beginning, many folks who went out and start to buy ORVs (Outdoor Recreational Vehicles) you know, quads and side-by-sides or sleds and get into a sport, so the number of machines out there increased dramatically over the last three years. By now, a lot of those folks have ridden on the trails for a couple of years, so they kind of know what to expect.”
Hora says there is no “Trail Pass” required to ride the Woodridge ATV trails. Their club is not big enough for that.
“Also, since our trails are on Crown Lands, which is open to the public, it's the People's Lands, we can't charge a trail pass fee. In saying that, we are able to operate through our club memberships, donations, and donations of volunteer time or equipment from some kind folks. You know, that own a business that might have skid steers. So that's how we are operating and running with the club right now.”
As the Woodridge ATV trails open this weekend, Hora reminds us to be mindful of others, as there will be increased traffic on the trails.
“Everyone's excited to get out and some people have been out already. There have been many areas you can go ride, places that are free of snow. But you know, be mindful of trail traffic, in the forest and you know, mindful of the hazards. And if you are going to be playing in the mud and stuff, make sure your exhaust is clean, check that there is no debris up on there and, you know, the potential of starting a fire from that point. But other than that, go out and enjoy the day.”