Landowners near Saskatoon fed up with trespassing snowmobilers

Landowners say there is a growing problem of snowmobilers trespassing on their property. Snowmobilers say they need more trails around Saskatoon as the city grows.

Snowmobilers looking for more groomed trails as city grows

Some landowners in Saskatchewan say they are fed up with snowmobilers trespassing on their land. (CBC News)

John Hanbidge has lived on a farm south of Saskatoon for the past 30 years.

In that time, he said he has had his share of negative experiences with trespassing snowmobilers, despite posting his land as private property and putting up wire fencing.

"When we got deep snow last year they could hop over the fence, and sometimes their runners would cut the wire and then you have a job to do in the spring," Hanbidge said. "And, that's frustrating." 

The actions of disrespectful snowmobilers have cost him a lot of money over the years, he said."When we got deep snow last year they could hop over the fence, and sometimes their runners would cut the wire and then you have a job to do in the spring," Hanbidge said. "And, that's frustrating."

"Sometimes, if you've got a fall seeded crop and they go over it, it damages it severely and that can be very expensive," he said.

CBC News spoke with many frustrated landowners in the RM of Corman Park, which is south of Saskatoon, and experiences like Handbidge's are not uncommon.

Heated confrontation caught on video

Last month, two Saskatoon snowmobilers captured a tense confrontation with a landowner on video.

The video shows Jeff Smerechanski and his friend being approached by Deryl Ring, who owns an alpaca farm. Ring accused the snowmobilers of trespassing while carrying a shotgun. He also kicked one of the snowmobiles and struck Smerechanski.

The confrontation took place on Ring's neighbour's land.

(Warning: Language in the video below may offend)

Snowmobilers say more groomed trails are needed

Chris Brewer, President and CEO of the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association (SSA), said although trespassing is not condoned in their community, bringing a shotgun out was over the top.

They need to understand is it is not a right it's a privilege and we have to ask permission- Chris Brewer, president and CEO of the SSA

"I was taken aback ... the landowner, I personally think he has taken this a little too far," Brewer said. "He could have waved them down and talked with them before you're gun wielding and kicking and hitting people."

Brewer believes part of the problem is the rapid growth of some areas around Saskatoon in recent years.

"In some of these areas, people have been snowmobiling in them for the past number of years," Brewer said. "With the acreage growth and more farms, an individual snowmobiler might think they still have the right to go there. What they need to understand is it is not a right, it's a privilege, and we have to ask permission."

However, Brewer said more groomed trails around Saskatoon would alleviate the problem.

"We need to expand the snowmobile trail system in this area," he said. "We've seen snowmobile sales dramatically increase in Saskatoon ... it's one of those things that goes hand in hand and we need to do some expansion ourselves."

The rules

Saskatchewan's snowmobile registration fee is the second most expensive among Canadian provinces. (CBC News)

In Saskatchewan, snowmobilers must pay $70 to the SSA annually in order to ride the group's groomed trails. This is the second highest registration fee among Canadian provinces.

Snowmobilers in Saskatchewan must also have liability insurance, which is included in the SSA registration fee.

Children ages 12 to 18, without a valid drivers license must be accompanied by an adult.

All snowmobile operators born on, or after, January 1, 1989 are required to take the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Safety Course.

Brewer said SSA volunteers work with the RCMP to prevent heated confrontations like the one last month, however landowners told CBC News more needs to be done.

Grant Miller is a landowner in the RM of Corman Park. He said he stands by Deryl Ring's actions in the video.

"I can certainly understand his frustration and I support him in whatever measures he thinks is necessary to protect his land," he said.

'No trespassing' signs a must

The RCMP are reminding rural landowners to post "no trespassing" signs on their property if they don't want snowmobilers on their land. The RCMP said if the rural property isn't properly posted snowmobilers can't be charged with trespassing.

RCMP Constable Todd Kaufmann said the more signs the better.

"Post your land properly at all four corners," he said. "As well, if there are current tracks where snowmobilers are going onto the land, post it there so that snowmobilers coming in can see that it's posted."

Kaufmann said if homeowners see snowmobilers trespassing they should gather as much information as they can and report it to police.

"Get as good a description as possible and the model of the snowmobile, what he's wearing, the helmet, even licence plates, because snowmobiles need to be licenced," he said.


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