Hay River Ski Club president hopes to rebuild after floods, debris engulf trails

The Hay River Ski Club is yet another casualty of the dramatic flooding in the community earlier this month. "It’s just a snarl of trees and willows and driftwood and ice and mud," says president Chuck Lirette.

‘It’s just a snarl of trees and willows and driftwood and ice and mud,’ says president Chuck Lirette

Hay River Ski Club President Chuck Lirette with some of the wreckage to the ski club trails on Wednesday. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

The Hay River Ski Club lies right beside the Hay River, its tranquil trails normally sheltered by a forest that offers occasional glimpses of water through the trees. 

After the flooding that took place earlier this month, that forest is strewn across the trails

"It's just a maze of pushed over willows and trees from the river," Ski Club President Chuck Lirette told the CBC's Loren McGinnis. "It would be a lot of work to clear this by hand."

Lirette inside the club's chalet. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

Nearby, "you can see the bank is gouged out quite significantly." 

Water and silt covers everything and several large spruce trees have been felled. 

A custom sign that marks the Brendan Green trail, named for the homegrown Olympic biathlete, has gone missing. 

"I don't quite know where that ended up," Lirette said. "It might be floating by Inuvik or something. Who knows?"

The club's trails run alongside the Hay River. (Hay River Ski Club)

The club's two-kilometre loop parallels the river. 

Now, Lirette says "it's just a snarl of trees and willows and driftwood and ice and mud."

"You can't even hope to walk through it right now the way it is," he says.

"And if we're going to reclaim our trail system, we're going to have to slowly hack our way through there somehow."

The Brendan Green trail at the Hay River Ski Club after flooding earlier this month. 'Ice and water right up to and on the 6th fairway,' Lirette posted on Facebook. (Submitted by Chuck Lirette)

But Lirette is hopeful that the trails will be reclaimed.

"Fingers crossed we're going to be able to get some assistance."

He thinks that if they were able to get some heavy equipment to remove the trees, then volunteers could clear the rest. The entire club is run by volunteers, who offer ski and biathlon lessons, hold races and family activities and make their small chalet available to renters. 

"But if we don't get any kind of funding, then it's going to be up to volunteers with chainsaws and and brush cutters and we'll just have to work away at it."

Lirette on a felled tree. 'We have a really active membership,' he says of the club. 'We’d like to have it ready to go next fall.' (Submitted Chuck Lirette)

Lirette admits that the urgency to fix the trails ahead of next year's ski season might seem low, while people are still working to restore their homes and livelihoods. 

But for him, the ski club is the beating heart of a lively community. 

Plans were in the works to start clearing the Ricardo loop in the summertime, for hikers and bikers to take advantage of. 

"We have a really active membership," he said. "We'd like to have it ready to go next fall."

With files from Loren McGinnis, Natalie Pressman