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Harvard Snowmobile Club offers miles of public trails; asks for respect for landowners

With the fresh snowfall this week creating a scenic landscape and the perfect conditions to enjoy outdoor winter activities, the Harvard Snowmobile Club is ready to hit the trails.

Founded in 1969, the club is a longstanding group that offers snowmobile riders the opportunity to ride through town and conservation land on trails maintained by dedicated club members. Tony Shaw, one of the members of the Snowmobile Club, spoke to the Press about what membership entails, as well as the rules that residents must follow when accessing the trails throughout town.

The 26 miles of trails the club maintains are open to the public in the winter, Shaw said. While snowmobilers can enjoy smooth trails to ride on, the paths are good for other winter recreation as well. Shaw said that hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, bicycling, and even dog sledding are some activities that he has seen the trails used for—and encourages. He also noted that anyone can join the club, whether they ride a snowmobile or not. “It’s nice if [residents] join the club as a non-snowmobiling member,” he said. “They get trail maps and updates on the trails.”

Most of the club’s trails go through conservation land, but they also cross private property. In these places, residents have permitted snowmobilers to ride through their property to connect separated parcels of conservation land. “To the landowners out there, we really do appreciate them … they’re doing a service to the community by allowing these trails to connect through their property,” Shaw said.

However, having trails that run through private property has at times posed problems. The club has “handshake agreements” with the landowners, an understanding that snowmobilers will respect their property and stay on the trail, using the land simply as a connection point, Shaw said. Yet, some landowners have experienced trespassing and are no longer permitting the club to use their properties because of this. Shaw explained that the problem in these cases usually isn’t the snowmobilers, but hikers venturing off-trail or people trying to access the trails in the off-season, which is not permitted. He noted that a few landowners had also reported people challenging them when asked to leave the property. “If you’re told by [the landowner] to not be there, you have to comply,” he said, adding that the trails are open only in the winter from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. and that people must stick to the trails.

Part of the responsibility as a member of the Snowmobile Club is maintaining the town’s trails. Shaw explained that each winter, club members work to keep the trails accessible, clearing off debris and widening and smoothing out the path. The trails are kept at 6 feet wide so a snowmobile can easily fit, and the snow is packed down with a groomer whenever there is enough snow to do so. Due to the recent snowstorm, Shaw said the club groomed half of the trails Monday night and had planned to do the rest on Tuesday. “Hopefully everyone enjoys the winter and the snow,” Shaw added. “It’s a beautiful time of the year.”

For those who are looking to ride a snowmobile on the trails, joining the town’s club and purchasing a trail pass is easy. Shaw said that to use the snowmobile trails in Harvard––or any other town, for that matter––a snowmobiler must purchase a $70 trail pass from the Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts. Although not required, residents are invited to join the Harvard Snowmobile Club. To do so, they need only email harvardsnow, or call Shaw or Mark Adams, the club president. Walkers, skiers, and other users are welcome on the trails, and don’t have to pay.

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