People in Hay River now have another way to enjoy the great outdoors with their dogs.
The Hay River Ski Club recently opened a trail where skiers and snowshoers can bring along their dogs.
The idea for the dog walking trail originated about five years ago, said Doug Swallow, a former club president who now volunteers to help make and maintain trails.
“I pushed the trail through on snowshoes and then on skis, and then with a Ski-Doo,” he recalled. “I found the area that I wanted to develop, but the club we just never got going with it.”
However, he noted that another club member recently spoke to Carter Industries about the trail, and the company volunteered a mulcher for the job.
“So they went out and cut the trail in the same area that I had looked at,” said Swallow. “And it turned out great.”
The trail was made in late fall as soon as the ground had frozen, and people began using it several weeks ago after several snowfalls.
“It’s a beautiful trail, so if you just want to go for a snowshoe or if you just want to go for a ski, you can use it,” said Swallow. “And there’s no hills on it, so it’s good for, I guess, people that don’t like hills.”
The three-kilometre-long loop begins and ends at a campsite on the access road to the ski club.
“It’s a meadow, like a marshy area,” said Swallow. “It’s a beautiful spot with lots of bulrushes and willows and swampland and stuff like that. So it’s not like we were taking out big trees. We were taking out mostly willows and some dead black spruce.”
The dog walking trail connects with another ski trail for only a short distance, about a third of a kilometre.
“The big thing with having them on a normal trail is it really wrecks the classic trails,” said Swallow, noting there would be dog prints all over. “So this way they’ve got their own trail and they can run free, and everybody is happy.”
The dog walking trail has been very popular since it opened, he said. “Some days when we’ve gone out to groom it, it looks like a herd of caribou went through the trail.”
Kathleen Groenewegen, the president of the Hay River Ski Club, said, in the past, the club has been open to skiers and snowshoers, but strictly no dogs.
“But in the past few years we’ve had several members ask us to think about opening up some trails for dogs,” she said. “And so last year I researched several other ski clubs in Canada and found a few that have started to allow dog trails, and it’s working really well.”
Groenewegen said club members talked about different options and decided to try opening up a brand-new trail for dogs this year to see how it goes.
“The dogs won’t be interfering with any of the groomed tracks,” she noted.
Groenewegen said the club is interested in entertaining new ideas, thinking about how to attract new members and making it more of a fun club.
“So we’re excited about this and we’re going to see how it goes this year and maybe make more plans next year,” she said.
Swallow noted the trail will be named by Carter Industries.
“Since they volunteered everything, we asked them to name the trail,” he said.
It is expected to be named Tigger’s Trail.
Swallow explained that name is inspired by a dog owned by the Carter family.
“One of their dogs would always jump in the snow and it was just like Tigger, just hopping all over the place,” he said, referring to the character from the Winnie the Pooh books.
It is expected that new signs will be soon erected to make the trail more visible.
Swallow noted people who are not club members will be asked to pay a fee to use the new dog walking trail, explaining that will help support the cost of equipment and fuel to groom the trail and to keep it open.