As the area braces for what could be the first major snowstorm of the winter, it’s perhaps fitting that local snowmobile trails open up this weekend.
Local snowmobilers will be able to hit the trails on Friday, and according to Willow Creek Snowmobile Club president Norm Strotman, opportunities have expanded for those involved with the sport.
The club spent its offseason touching up its trails in the area, and also developed some connectors along its routes so that recreationists can keep snowmobiling throughout the day.
“There was a lot of new trail maintenance projects and establishing these new trails,” Strotman said. “We worked with the Forest Service, Water Authority, Collins Pines and Pine Acres to get these new trails established. It really provides more riding for the area…
“It was a long process, specifically with the Forest Service. It took about a year to approve the connector trails that go to the Water Authority and Collins. We achieved that this fall and systems are a go for the new trails.”
Among the offerings within McKean County are:
— Heffner Trail, which runs from the Allegheny National Forest Trail 1A onto a new ANF connector trail and eventually lets out at Pine Acres, which has developed a trail on its golf course for use.
— Marilla Rocks Trail, which runs from ANF Trail 1A onto another connector trail and then onto the Bradford City Water Authority lands. It runs to West Washington Street and meets with a new connector trail, known as the Taz Holleran Connector, which crosses the street and continues up to the Indian Pipe Trail.
— Indian Pipe Trail, which runs across the upper portion of the Bradford City Water Authority lands to the top of Interstate Parkway and allows for a second access point into the Allegany State Park.
— Ridge Road Trail, which is on the Water Authority lands and runs east to the ANF and onto a connector there, which eventually runs to Trail 1A on the ANF. It allows for a trail to the Willow Creek Cabins, which snowmobilers can stay in and get directly on the trail from their rental.
Much of the work and maintenance was done through grant funds from the Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association and DCNR, as well as private donations from individuals as businesses.
The addition of Pine Acres to the local snowmobiling offerings was one that was described as “mutually beneficial” by Strotman and Pine Acres president C.J. Mackey.
“We’re really excited about the partnership,” Mackey said. “Pine Acres is really one of the community’s partners so anything we can do to help a community organization, we’ll try to jump on it… We’d like to see Pine Acres become a year-round attraction to the area. Right now we’re not in a position to do that, but being able to test the waters with this agreement is something we’re excited about. We’re excited to see where it may go.”
The Willow Creek Snowmobile Club, meanwhile, is entering its second full year as an organization, and Strotman says things are going well within the organization. Membership has grown to about 50, he says, and that number could continue to increase by year’s end.
In addition, the club will soon have six people that will be certified to operate the trail groomer.
“Those six can go out, depending on the snow conditions, two or three days a week and groom the trails to make them excellent for riders in the area,” Strotman noted, and added that a lot of volunteer time has helped the club’s efforts as well.
Much of that time this offseason was spent brush-hogging and clearing small trees away from the trails, as well as drainage and sluicing work. The last couple of weeks have been more about refining trails and putting up signage to keep people on track and to alert them of upcoming sharp turns. The club’s trail system also lets into the Allegany State Park just across the state line in New York, which also provides plenty of trails to riders.
To learn more about the Willow Creek Snowmobile Club, visit the organization’s Facebook page or its website at https://willowcreeksnomobi.wixsite.com/wcsc.