Tupper Lake town plans to buy snowmobile trail groomer

TUPPER LAKE – The town board here is already thinking about winter.

On Monday, town board members voted to go out for bid to buy a used trail grooming machine, which will be used to smooth an expanding network of snowmobile trails created and maintained by the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club.

Pete Edwards, trail coordinator with the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club, urged the board Monday to consider buying a fully refurbished 1988 trail groomer from Getsno Equipment, a company based in Newport, Vt. Edwards said the club’s current groomer needs repairs and can’t handle the area’s 30 miles of trails.

The refurbished machine costs $52,500. The town could add a refurbished drag, which is necessary for grooming trails, to the purchase for $8,000, and delivery for both pieces of equipment would cost $700, for a total of $61,200.

Edwards acknowledged that a new machine, which could run up to $200,000, is out of the question, but he said a better groomer could put Tupper Lake on the map as a snowmobile destination. Edwards added that he expects a Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club raffle to raise $2,500, which will be donated to the town for the purchase of the refurbished equipment.

“I understand the importance of the snowmobiling industry for the hotel owners, who are starving in the winter,” Edwards told the board. “We’ve built a lot of new trails. We want to turn Tupper Lake into a snowmobile capital, sort of like Old Forge. In order to do that, we need better equipment.”

Improved equipment could also make the club eligible for grants from the New York State Snowmobile Association. The grants are distributed as a reimbursement to snowmobile clubs statewide to help cover costs associated with trail creation and maintenance. They would relieve that burden from the town and the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club, which now shares those costs.

“One nice thing to mention is, this is a taxpayer-purchased, town-owned piece of equipment; however, we have the luxury to, once it’s operating, get reimbursed,” Edwards said. “Eventually it will pay for itself and make money for the town.”

Town board members agreed to seek a groomer, and Town Supervisor Roger Amell said they should begin the process before next month’s meeting.

“I want to make sure we have everything we need,” Amell said. “Write the specs down for this type of groomer with the drag. We’ll work on it this week, and next week we’ll put it out to bid.”

NYSSA funding

In June, the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club submitted a funding application to the NYSSA and is expecting an answer sometime this fall.

Grant money from the NYSSA is derived from snowmobile registration fees and is disbursed to snowmobile clubs across the state to help pay for the creation and maintenance of local snowmobile trails. Eligible clubs must have networks of well-maintained trails, complete with signage.

“Snowmobilers go where they enjoy riding,” NYSSA Trail Coordinator Jim Rolf told the Enterprise in a phone interview Wednesday. “If trails aren’t maintained well, if they’re not trimmed back, if they aren’t groomed, they’re bumpy, and that makes for a less enjoyable experience. If you’re looking to get out-of-towners into a community, groomed trails are the way to go.”

Rolf mentioned Old Forge as an example of a successful snowmobiler destination and explained it is different from other areas in that it doesn’t receive NYSSA grant money, but instead charges a fee for use of its trails. Its is the only snowmobile club in the state to operate that way.

NYSSA grant money is a reimbursement for money a snowmobile club spends. Volunteer hours are reimbursed at the state’s minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour, and equipment operating expenses are reimbursed at a rate determined by the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

The maximum amount of reimbursement available to each club is dependent on how many miles of trail the club maintains.

Money for the grants comes from NYSSA’s registration fees. The money is distributed by the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which takes a cut before administering the funds to safety programs, law enforcement and snowmobile projects on state land.

The remaining registration money is used to determine the per-mile rate, which is then used to determine the maximum amount of grant money available to each club. If a club has 30 miles of trail, and the rate is $300 per mile, that club’s operating expenses could be reimbursed for up to $9,000.

“The New York State Snowmobile Association definitely supports the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club in applying for, and receiving, funding, and we look forward to their community benefiting from snowmobiling even more than they do now,” Rolf said.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.