Slave Lake Snow and Mud Association’s two main goals are to build, mark, and map off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails and to hold “off-highway events,” says Bill Criss, president.
To achieve these, it is joining forces (on a trial basis) with Smith-Hondo Association of Recreation and Agriculture Society, better known as SHARA.
“It’s too early to look at amalgamation,” says Criss.
The focus is on a single project of the two groups to clean up 10, 20 and 30 km trail loops in the Smith area, says Criss. There are also trails with historic significance which are 30 and 60 km.
In the past, Snow and Mud has marked trails for quad rallies, but been required by the government to remove the signs afterward, says Criss.
The goal for 2023 is to have “some known marked trails that the government recognizes,” says Criss. “We’re trying to work hand in hand with the government.”
“They (SHARA) don’t have the experience building trails,” he adds.
Snow and Mud is a member of Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association (AOHVA).
On February 17, the Alberta government announced that AOHVA and the Alberta Snowmobile Association had been appointed official trail managers under the Trails Act.
The news release says, “In their role as trail managers, the organizations are accountable for managing a number of provincially designated snowmobile and off-highway vehicle trails and coordinating the building and maintaining of trails with local clubs. Trails managed by the trail managers must align with the approved land-use plans for the area and ensure environmental commitments are met.”
In notes from the AGM posted on social media, Snow and Mud says, “The goal of building trails and increasing tourism has been difficult to achieve in Slave Lake, given the terrain (muskeg) and lack of members in the organization. Smith trails are drier, sandier, accessible. There are lots of possibilities for trails that would be of interest to locals and to tourists, and many of them would have historical significance.”
“Tourism around Slave Lake could be addressed in a more significant manner,” says Bill.
Providing tourists with trail maps for the area was one of the priorities mentioned by the Slave Lake Regional Tourism Society in a presentation at a Slave Lake and District Chamber of Commerce meeting in January.
The trails around Smith would be dual use – OHV and horses.
SHARA has various branches, but one of the main ones has to do with horses.
If the two groups are successful with cleaning up and marking the trails, in the fall, they plan to hold a horse rally and a quad rally.
“We’ve had people say if we have a quad rally, they can help (on the) day of,” says Criss. However, getting to that stage requires more help.
In the past, Snow and Mud has held some quad rallies on a 25 km trail near Canyon Creek.
“It would take some work, but it’s accessible,” says Bill.
If things go well this year, maybe next year Snow and Mud will organize something there again, says Criss. If things go well, a snowmobile race is also on the table, but this will likely have to be in the bush instead of on the ice of Lesser Slave Lake, because the last two years the weather hasn’t cooperated. This year, Snow and Mud looked at the weather and didn’t bother organizing one.
The next Snow and Mud meeting is at the Criss’ house on Tuesday, March 28. Criss is available at 780-805-9693.