Can Ossipee Be A Premier Destination For Snowmobilers?

Ossipee — August 29, 2005 — Ossipee has the potential to be a premier snowmobiling destination, but it needs more trails and volunteers, says a local man who hopes to lay 15 miles of new trail from Ossipee Lake to Effingham.

Snowmobilers from the Seacoast haul sleds on trailers four hours north to trail-rich terrain in Pittsburg and Errol. These middle-aged, middle-class sledders, mostly 40-year-old family men, could be lured three hours closer to Ossipee, according to Effingham’s Richard Buswell.

And they would bring their wallets — an economic boost for a slow winter, Buswell says.

“These guys spend about $4,000 a year on snowmobiling,” he said. “It would bring more winter tourism to Ossipee.”

Forest lands here are dotted with services, including gas stations and restaurants on routes 16 and 25. In the deep north, these spots are fewer and farther between. But Buswell says that right now, some Ossipee spots sit off the registered trail network, painstakingly maintained by a small group of dedicated riders. Snowmobilers who run an existing trail that crosses Route 16 either don’t stop at certain off-trail stores, or they buzz down the side of the highway or onto unmarked paths in the woods.

“I want to try to bring legitimacy — to take over trails snowmobiles are already using,” he said.

Phase one of Buswell’s trail plan would connect Ossipee Lake, Broad Bay and Leavitt Bay with a cluster of three gas and food stores on Route 25, including Abbott and Staples, Dy-No-Mite Variety and Lazy Susan’s restaurant.

“This is connecting the bays with the stores and restaurants,” he said, “so snowmobilers have a choice between McDonald’s and Lazy Susan’s.”

Buswell first set out to form his own snowmobiling club, the Carroll County Coyotes, but found the project could be done faster and with less state red tape under an existing club’s flag. He said he is now talking with the local Ossipee Valley club — one of several in Carroll County that already maintain an extensive trail network.

While Ossipee appears to teem with sleds each winter, that look may be deceptive.

“It looks like it,” Buswell said, “but the reason is that there is only one trail.

“There is a giant void between Ossipee Lake and Wakefield,” he added.

Trails in New Hampshire are maintained by snowmobile clubs like Ossipee Valley. “Without the clubs there are no trails,” he said.

The Ossipee Valley club keeps up over 60 miles of trails in Ossipee, Tamworth and Wonalancet, according to the club’s Web site. Buswell said most sledders who pay a $48 license fee to the state expect trails to be in perfect shape and don’t realize that volunteers from local clubs have spent long hours grooming.

A core group of people, in clubs like Ossipee Valley, he said do all the work and get little credit for keeping snowmobiling alive here, he said.

“In Carroll County, 25 to 30 people do everything,” he said “All of the work, all of the blow-down.

“People think that because they pay the fee, they are absolved of any responsibility,” he said. “These guys that are out there working don’t get thank-yous.”

Join a club and come to work when the clubs advertise trail-grooming parties, Buswell says.

And get the kids in on it early. They may wind up riding the new network Buswell envisions eventually running south over the mountain and into Pine River State Park. “If you like these trails and you want to see the system improve, this is the next trail,” he said.

“We need to get the kids involved because, let’s face it, they’re going to be the new blood that takes over,” Buswell said. “(Ossipee Valley’s) Dave Bowles put in 35 miles of trails by himself. He is eventually going to get too old to do this.”

Buswell said a vast majority of landowners on his proposed route have already offered permission to run trails on their property. But a critical stretch will run over town-owned land, and he needs the town’s OK.

Buswell has asked Ossipee selectmen to let him use town property at Constitution Park, and he said that the state won’t even consider his trail plan until he has pledges of support from all impacted landowners.

Selectmen are expected to give Buswell an answer Monday.

“If Ossipee says no, I’m not completely stumped and stymied, but it would be a big problem,” he said.

Local snowmobiling information can be found at ossipeevalleysnowmobileclub.com, and at carrollcountycoyotes.com.

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