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Missing Links trails around Carthage cleared following ice storm

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WEST CARTHAGE — Following what was scheduled as a routine trail cleanup, the Missing Link Snowmobile Club trails are open; however, caution is advised. Last week the club’s Facebook page advised against use of the trails that link trails in the Adirondack and Tug Hill regions.

The trails “were closed due to unsafe passage” with “very deep open water holes, down trees, and low hanging branches,” the Facebook posting said.

Club President Steven R. Gamble said the club had scheduled last Saturday as a work day, but it became more than routine brush clearing after the Dec. 21 ice storm hit the area.

“The crew in the Great Bend area trimmed for two days, both Saturday and Sunday,” Mr. Gamble said.

He said although not all the reports are in, all of the club’s trails are open, but the club is advising caution because of the underlying ice.

“Copenhagen lost most of its snow cover so it’s just plowed ground ... there’s marginal snow,” the club president said. “Up toward Bear Town the swamp is iced over. Carthage has a beautiful base, but the snow is hard and crusty.”

Three crews, totaling 18 volunteers, worked over the holiday weekend to help with the ice storm cleanup and annual trail maintenance.

Mr. Gamble said there is a dedicated group of about 20 volunteers who regularly help with trail maintenance.

“If not for the volunteers, we would not survive,” he said, adding that the landowners are “key to our success.”

Mr. Gamble said that without the trail system, the club would be reduced to a riding club, trailoring its sleds elsewhere to ride.

The club was formed in 1970 as the Carthage Snowmobile Club and was re-established as the Missing Link Snowmobile Club in 1996. The trails begin in Copenhagen, pass through Carthage and go toward Harrisville, connecting the trails maintained by the Snow Valley Travelers, Barnes Corner Snow Pals and Long Pond Snowmobile Club.

Mr. Gamble said the volunteer team of groomers for the Missing Link club grooms about three times a week when conditions are right. Basically, the groomer pulls snow from the side of the passageway and packs it onto the trail. Temperature is a factor; it must be cold enough to move and pack the snow — normally below 20 degrees. According to Mr. Gamble, the team tries to groom late at night to allow the groomed trail to set for a couple of hours before it is ridden on.

“It’s a tight process to train groomers,” Mr. Gamble said.

The club’s board of directors votes on groomer candidates; then they are trained to be able to handle the equipment solo.

Mr. Gamble said not all clubs are so stringent when it comes to who can operate the groomer, but the Carthage club does so to protect the expensive equipment.

He said the club operates on about a $43,000 budget, using dues money garnered through the state registration process. The funds pay for fuel, payment and maintenance on the groomer, utilities and maintenance of the groomer barn and stakes to mark the trails.

The club had a deficit of $6,000 last year, but Mr. Gamble said it is in good shape now.

“Our goal is to be out of debt totally in five years,” he said. “We should break even this year if membership comes up.”

He said last year the club had 500 registered members and this year it is at about half that at the beginning of the season.

“We don’t want to reduce services,” the club president said.

The local municipalities support the club but do have laws regulating snowmobiling. There is zero tolerance for breaking the midnight to 7 a.m. curfew.

Snowmobiles are not allowed on sidewalks. Riders are to stay on the right side of roads, traveling with the flow of traffic. A 25 mph speed limit is enforced. Snowmobilers are to stay on marked trails and streets.

In the village of West Carthage, riders younger than 10 years old are not permitted to operate a snowmobile.

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