For most Mainers, the foot and a half of snow that fell last month meant slippery roads and driveways in need of shoveling. But for southern Maine’s newest snowmobile club, it was a welcome sight.

After 10 weeks of building bridges and clearing trails, the members of the Westbrook Trail Blazes finally got to see their hard work pay off.

“It was definitely a nice Christmas present for the club,” Dan McCarthy, president of the Westbrook Trail Blazes, said about the season’s first snowfall.

McCarthy said a group of between 12 and 20 members of the club has been spending up to 10 hours every Saturday and Sunday since September getting more than 30 miles of trails ready for the snowmobiling season.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a group this ambitious,” McCarthy said.

The club has built 34 bridges, put up 400 signs and cut down countless trees in just a few months. They filled out paperwork and got permission from landowners to use the trails, which run up the S.D. Warren pole line on the west and parallel to Route 302 on the east, meeting up at the gas pipe line in the northern part of the city.

The group even built a Web site, www.westbrooktrailblazes.com, where there’s a map of the trails, updates and information about joining the club. According to McCarthy, there are already more than 80 members, and he’s still getting calls weekly from people who want to join.

“It’s snowballing,” he said.

McCarthy said he and his friends have been talking about starting a snowmobile club in Westbrook for about four years, but it wasn’t until this summer that they decided this would be the year they’d actually do it.

Growing up in Westbrook, McCarthy said he played on the trails as a kid, but they haven’t been kept up.

“We’ve always had to trailer up to Standish,” he said, or even farther destinations, like Monson and Millinocket.

McCarthy said he’s supported the Falmouth and Windham clubs and watched them grow, but he knew there was a trail system waiting to be tapped into in his hometown.

“We always felt there was a need to do it right here in Westbrook,” he said.

According to Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association, the Westbrook club joins 290 of its kind in the state, which altogether maintain 14,000 miles of trails.

Despite a struggling economy, Meyers said, the snowmobile industry is growing. Last year, the state saw a record 102,000 registered snowmobiles.

“Maine truly is the premier destination in the northeast for snowmobiling,” he said.

Meyers said the sport brings $350 million a year into Maine’s economy and accounts for 32,000 jobs, including owners and employees of dealerships, gas stations and motels.

“There are a lot of places that would be closed if it weren’t for snowmobiling,” he said.

According to Meyers, the state covers about 70 percent of the costs for snowmobile clubs and the rest is raised locally. The Westbrook City Council has already authorized giving the club $10,000 out of the city’s service chest fund, and McCarthy said he hopes to get another $10,000 from the conservation commission. The money will help pay for fuel costs and equipment used to clear and groom the trails.

Still, the work isn’t done for the new club. Trailmaster Anthony Latini will be out in the woods most nights of the week this winter, grooming the trails to make for smooth rides. McCarthy said they hope to add more trails, too.

And it’s not only members of the Westbrook club that will benefit from all the hard work of its members. Bob Fletcher, president of the Windham Drifters, said the snowmobilers in his club are excited about using the trails, which will connect to those in Windham and Falmouth.

Fletcher, who lives in Westbrook, said there are trails behind his home on Methodist Road, but “they were in real rough shape” before the Trail Blazes started their work. Now, he said, he’ll be able to access the Windham trail system from his backyard.

“There’s a lot of Westbrook that people don’t even know exists,” McCarthy said about the views and the wildlife that can be seen while riding along the trails.

“I think the city is going to benefit immensely,” he said.

Anthony Latini, trailmaster for the Westbrook Trail Blazes, grooms part of the 30 miles of newly cleared trails in the city.Members of Westbrook’s new snowmobile club put up 400 signs, marking trails throughout the city.Grooming the trails will keep members of the Westbrook Trail Blazes, who have been hard at work since September, busy through the winter.


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