North Bay health unit closes OFSC snowmobile trails

View from the Front Seat of a Snowmobile, looking forward through and over the windshield, to the trail ahead in North Bay, Ontario. Photo by Mary Anne Love/Shutterstock

Shawn Flindall, Director of Public Relations for the North Bay Snowmobile Club, is speaking out about the closing of Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs’ trails in the North Bay region.

“We’re obviously really disappointed with the decision,” he said. “North Bay has an extensive and outstanding system of trails and we’re well known for being a hub for snowmobiling, and certainly disappointed to have this affecting locals when it’s the direct result of people from Southern Ontario not respecting the stay-at-home order to visit and ride our trails.”

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit announced the mandatory closing of all OFSC trails and trails on Crown land in the district starting Thursday for the duration of the stay-at-home order.

In Monday’s press release, Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health said they have received many complaints about people travelling from other districts to use the trails. This, he said, puts local residents at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.

“The OFSC recommends that snowmobilers avoid trailering and travelling to destinations that are outside their health unit region to snowmobile, but people have not taken the direction seriously,” said Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health. “We are also seeing groups of snowmobilers congregating on trails, in parking lots and other locations not maintaining a two metre distance and exceeding the gathering limits.”

Flindall said the North Bay Snowmobile Club is disappointed another remedy wasn’t sought to keep the trails open for local sledders, perhaps by ticketing people who travelled to the region to use the trails.

“We put in thousands of volunteer hours getting the trails ready for snowmobile season so it’s just unfortunate that it came to this,” Flindall said. “It’s a major economic driver in Northern Ontario so this will hurt us this year and, while we understand their reasoning, we just really feel that it was taken a step too far by restricting local use as well.”

Outdoor physical activity, such as walking, running, playing outside, and biking are important for physical and mental health still recommended by the Health Unit but Chirico said all activities outside the house need to be “done with extreme caution, following the COVID-19 public health measures, and should be done close to home.”

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