By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to The Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE – Construction on The Appalachian Trail in the Bay St. George area is almost complete. The Town of Stephenville, Bay St. George Snowmobile/ATV Association, College of the North Atlantic, and ELC Contracting have been working together on the trail for the past three weeks and are expected to finish this Friday, Sept. 3.
Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose explained that work has been done on the trail over the years, but this is the first time in over a decade that it has been worked on to this level.
“This is the first time it’s been done to this degree in 10 to15 years,” said Rose. “It used to get a bit of work done when there was logging in here, but there is no logging now.”
Craig Mason, President of the Bay St. George Snowmobile/ATV Association said he had concerns that he brought up to council regarding the state of the trail coming into town.
“The rail bed hasn’t been done since the rail bed had been removed,” said Mason. “It was in that rough of shape, and I mentioned this to Tom and council, that we had the worst trail leading into town across the whole island. We now have one of the best trails going across the whole island which is amazing.”
This portion of the trail isn’t the only part that has been under construction this year. The BSG Snowmobile/ATV Association has been working on it a lot this year.
“I was adding it up and we are just under 100 km of trail done this year,” said Mason. “The snowmobile club did (work) from Stephenville Crossing all the way to Gallants. We haven’t stopped.”
Mason credits the work done for snowmobiling and ATVs in the community to Tom Rose and his council.
“There’s lots of good work going on in snowmobiling and ATVing in the community and to be honest, we’ve never had it so good since Tom Rose became mayor. Tom has always been there to help us out. Whatever we’ve asked for he has been there to supply it for us, which is great. We never had that before and I’ve been president for eight years,” said Mason.
Rose said that he knew putting money into the trail construction would prove important.
“The biggest thing for me is that I understand the economics of it, and I understand how valuable this industry is to businesses, to the community, to our well-being, our mental health, especially during COVID,” said Rose.
Mason said that this adds potential revenue to the town on a large scale, as it will entice tourists.
“There’s a lot of groups out of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that come to Newfoundland on an ATV or side-by-side. They basically cross over on the Argentia ferry, drive across the whole island, and then they get on the Port aux Basques ferry and return to Nova Scotia,” said Mason. “They spend on average, and usually there are about eight bikes in a group sometimes with two people on a bike, they spend between $1,200 and $1,500 each while in Newfoundland. It’s non-stop.”
Mason realizes just how big this year has been for them, and said regular repairs will keep them ahead of the curve.
“This is the biggest year we’ve had, but it isn’t the stop. This is going to be a continual program here. This may just be the biggest, just maintenance after this because we’ll never let it get to this point again,” said Mason.
The BSG Snowmobile/ATV Association has big plans for their next big construction project. Mason said that currently there is a portion of land between a warm-up shelter the club built and Corner Brook called ‘no-man’s land’ that isn’t passable by ATV or side-by-side, only by snowmobile in the winter, but the next goal is to get it completed.
“The game-plan of the snowmobile club is to get that link done so that you can pass through it in snowmobile, ATV, and side-by side. So you can leave Cold Brook and go right into Corner Brook,” said Mason. “Once the link is done, Stephenville will be a natural stop for everyone doing the Argentia loop.”
Although this was a big year, Mason said there are no plans to stop anytime soon.
Rose shared that important steps were made by doing this construction, and its completion will lead by example.
“Now we’ve set the precedent, we know the value of what we’ve done,” said Rose.