Local club builds province’s first roundabout for snowmobiles

By Chet Greason

A world record is a tough thing to top.

That’s the realization the Science Hill Drifters- a local snowmobile club that oversees the area trail system- came to after they set the Guinness World Record for the most snowmobiles in a parade. They broke the record on February 8, 2015 on a 9 km track behind their Thames Road clubhouse. (Unfortunately, the record was beaten only four days later by the Whitecourt Trailblazers of Alberta, who still hold the record today, that of 1,047 sleds.)

Still, the club had gained a good deal of notoriety from the stunt, and were looking for additional ways to stand out from the pack.

“Doing something unique put us on the map,” member Dwayne Lawrence tells the Independent. “So then we asked, what’s next? Where do we go from here?”

Member Dave Armstrong jokingly suggested that, with all of the roundabouts being constructed on area highways, one could be installed on his farm, which includes a portion of the trail maintained by the Science Hill Drifters.

That got the membership thinking: had they ever seen a roundabout on a snowmobile trail? Was that a thing?

They looked into it, contacting the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) of which the local group is a member. They were told that throughout over 30,000 kms of snowmobile trails in Ontario there were zero roundabouts. Like that, the Drifters knew what their next project would be.

They first had to clarify aspects of safety and liability regarding the feature. The roundabout had to include proper signage, and issues of location and size were taken into account.

It was decided that the roundabout would be installed at intersection 208 on Armstrong’s property, a three-way junction where Trail B111 meets Trail 5-33. Directional signs to nearby communities were also included, pointing riders towards St. Marys, Stratford, Sebringville, Lucan, Ilderton, Mitchell, and Thamesford.

“We’re not sure if it’ll have the same effectiveness as a roundabout for cars, as we have less volume than the highway,” admits Lawrence. “But it’s the first one in the history of the OFSC. Maybe if people like them, we’ll install more.”

The roundabout was constructed over the wintery weekend of Dec. 16-17. Unfortunately, the region was hit with a warm drizzle shortly thereafter, rendering the trails unusable. The trails, as well as the new roundabout, will remain closed until more snow arrives.

“The last couple of years have been tough,” says Lawrence when asked about area snowfall. “We had some great weather in 2014 and 2015. 2016 was mediocre. 2017 was horrible.

“We’re pretty much at the mercy of what Mother Nature gives us… We’re hoping this year will be better.”

Currently, the Science Hill Drifters boast 200 km of trail and 25 active members that help to maintain the system as wardens and groomers. They meet twice a month between November and March and only twice during the off season. A trail permit costs $190 if purchased in November (the price goes up later in the season) which grants riders access to any OFSC trail anywhere in the province.

For news about the official opening of the trail, as well as events like radar and poker runs, visit the Science Hill Drifters Facebook page or www.sciencehilldrifters.com.

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