Pedestrians on Confederation Trail 'quite a safety issue,' this season says snowmobile association

The P.E.I. Snowmobile Association is raising concern over the number of pedestrians, skiers and snowshoers they are coming across on the trail this Winter.

'We don't want any accidents, we don't want any trouble'

The snowmobile association's lease starts once the snow arrives says Dale Hickox, seen here on his machine. (Tony Davis/CBC)

The P.E.I. Snowmobile Association is raising concern over the number of pedestrians, skiers and snowshoers they are encountering on the trail this winter.

Since 1996, the association has had an exclusive lease during winter months of the Confederation Trail system that runs across the entire Island. This winter they say they're seeing an increase in walkers on the trail.

"Obviously people aren't aware of what goes on here in the wintertime when the P.E.I Snowmobile Association has a lease with the government of P.E.I. where we take control of the trails," said association President Dale Hickox.

"It's become a little bit of a safety issue for snowmobilers this season."

Hickox said snowmobilers buy permits annually — $75 for a three-day permit and $300 for the full season. The association uses the money to groom and maintain the the trails.

'An ideal walking trail'

Hickox said he's heard increasingly from members on what they're encountering when they're on the trails: walkers, dogs off leash, skiers and snowshoers. 

It's been a great winter for snowmobiling, and also for getting out walking with pets — the problem is everyone wants to use the Confederation Trail. (Tony Davis/CBC)

"It's quite a thing to come around a corner or a bend or over a hill and there's two dogs, with people chasing the dogs trying to catch them," he said.

The association said they want Islanders to be aware of the exclusive lease both for their own safety and for the safety of their members — even when they're travelling at normal speeds. 

"These machines will slide," explained Hickox. "It's not an easy machine to get stopped."

He said he believes people are simply not educated about the snowmobilers' exclusive lease.

"Because the trail is maintained for our equipment and our fuel, it makes an ideal walking trail. If we weren't doing this, there'd be no way that anyone could walk on it," he said.

"High-powered machines running on a trail with walkers and dogs is not the safest thing," he said. "We don't want any accidents, we don't want any trouble."

Hickox said the snowmobile association has six groomers which maintain more than 900 kilometres of trail with equipment that cost about $1.5 million. On top of that, he estimates that by the end of the season the association will have spent between $250,000 and $300,000 in fuel grooming the trails.

Hoping to add new signs

The snowmobile association lease covers the entire Confederation Trail except two sections reserved for pedestrians: in Charlottetown from the bypass to Joe Ghiz Park, and in Montague from the Robertson Road to the marina.

Snowmobile association president Dale Hickox says the group is looking at adding more signage at public access points to the trail. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Hickox said the association is looking at adding more signage at the public access points to inform people about the snowmobilers' exclusive lease. 

While the lease used to run Dec. 1 to March 31, Hickox said the lease now starts once the snow arrives.

This winter is one of the first lengthy seasons Island snowmobilers have had in several years.

CBC News reached out for an interview with the province, from whom the association leases the trails, but did not receive a response.

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With files from Tony Davis