SKYE GLEN: It was a chilly day, but the climate was appropriate considering snowmobiling was on everyone’s mind.

“It’s a very exciting time,” said Richard Jamieson, fundraising chairperson for the Ceilidh Trails Groomers Association. “We had a dream to buy a new groomer a year and a half ago, and now we see it complete.”

Jamieson was speaking to a group of guests visiting John Austin’s farm in Skye Glen, where a new trail groomer was unveiled. The groomer is the third such machine for the Ceilidh Trails Groomers Association, a group formed in 2002 that combined the resources of the Cape Clear Snowmobile Club, Port Hood’s Alpine Club, and the Inverness Capers.

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The machine will help keep recreational trails in Inverness County open for activities through the winter.

“There was a lot of knocking on doors and phone calls,” he said. “I really want to thank Earl Johnstone and David MacLean who helped me a lot with the fundraising goal of getting 50 sponsors for 2500 each or more.

“I think we set a new standard for the other 21 clubs in the province to get funding.”

Jamieson, who mentioned his wife Janet was a great help in his efforts, said his group spent 730 hours grooming trails on the three machines, just last year. Close to 550 km of trail have been groomed so far, he added, mentioning that the addition of the new groomer has increased the number of volunteers looking to help out. With that, the addition of the new groomer makes for less wear and tear on the older machines.

“You probably heard ‘build it, and they will come.’ Well, that’s what we did,” he said. “We built great trails and, man, did they come. You couldn’t find a place to park in Whycocomagh, down through the Margarees and Inverness, We had more mainland traffic than I ever saw before.”

He added that the trails aren’t just for snowmobilers. Hikers and snowshoers are also regulars on the trails.

While the fundraising called on community support, all three levels of government kicked in to make the purchase of the groomer possible.

“You didn’t have to convince us about the impact of snowmobiling on the community and the economy,” said Rodger Cuzner, MP for Cape Breton-Canso, speaking on behalf of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Minister Navdeep Bains.

“Two-thirds of the money for this investment came from you guys doing your fundraising. What you’ve done is to the benefit of snowmobilers across the region. When ACOA sees a group coming with two-thirds of the money, they’ll look at that project.

“If we are serious about growing our tourism sector, it has to be more than a 10-week season. We have to reach into the other seasons.”

The federal government put down $88,575 for the groomer, and the provincial government was ready with the chequebook as well.

“We understand the value of strong communities and we are prepared to invest in community organizations and projects,” said Energy Minister Michael Samson, on behalf of Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Tony Ince.

“Our support in this project is testament to our government’s dedication to improve the quality of life of Nova Scotians, and it illustrates how we are prepared to work with communities all over Nova Scotia so people can lead active lives.”

Samson said the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage was contributing $50,000 for the groomer.

Also a funding partner is the County of Inverness, which put down $10,000 for the groomer. Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie was on hand for the announcement, as well as councillor John MacLennan.

“It’s amazing how people can work together on a special project to provide the funds needed to see it through,” MacQuarrie said.

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Grant McDaniel
Sports reporter Grant McDaniel is a Port Hood native, who after graduating from StFX University, joined The Reporter in 2001.