October 6, 2013

Maine snowmobile club needs help to maintain trails

The Abnaki Sno-Riders, and other clubs, say fewer people are riding sleds and fewer are volunteering.

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

In Bingham, about 20 miles north of Madison, about 98 percent of visitors to the Bingham Motor Inn & Sports Complex, on U.S. 201, are snowmobilers, owner Anita Andre said. ITS 87 and another route, ITS 84, run through the property.

“If there is no snow, we practically die up here. There are very few people traveling back and forth to Canada in the winter. Sometimes there are people who come for work, but it’s mostly all snowmobilers,” said Andre, who is also a member of Bingham’s snowmobile club, Valley Riders.

“There are businesses that depend on the trails for extra winter business. It will affect quite a few of them,” said Moore, 49, who resigned in March as the club’s trail master in part because of a lawsuit filed against him and the club.

Effects of lawsuit

The suit claims negligence that contributed to the wrongful death of a 29-year-old Madison man, Richard Pepin II, who died on the ITS 87 in February 2011.

The night of Pepin’s death, Moore was operating a groomer on one of the trails when it broke down and he had to leave it overnight. Pepin collided with the disabled groomer, although a path had been created around the groomer and it was marked with signs and other caution material. A toxicology report showed that Pepin’s blood alcohol content level was 0.119 percent, almost 11/2 times the legal limit, according to court documents.

Last week, Somerset County Superior Court Justice John Nivison granted a motion by the Pepin family’s attorney for additional time to gather evidence about the accident, which has been in court since February.

Rhonda Pottle, Abnaki’s club treasurer, said the lawsuit could be scaring people away.

“Nobody wants to step up and take responsibility and be a trail master if you could get sued. If people hear that if you’re a trail master and a machine breaks down and someone gets hurt and killed hitting this machine, there’s going to be a lot of people that are scared and just won’t do it,” said Pottle, 58, who lives in nearby Bingham but joined the Madison club three years ago.

In the last year the club has lost its president, who Bonnie Moore said moved out of town to start a business; and its vice president, one of the club’s few younger members, who left Madison to attend college.

Pottle said last week the club had a meeting, which it advertised on its Facebook page, but only 10 people came.

“Apparently they don’t care if the club closes or not, she said”

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:rohm@centralmaine.com
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