Meadville Tribune

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January 26, 2014

Morning flakes to the rescue of trail-helping Snowmobile Poker Run

JAMESTOWN — The conditions weren’t all that favorable. In fact, not even 12 hours earlier, taking a snowmobile out on the trails for the fourth annual Pymatuning Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club Poker Run on Saturday morning wasn’t going to happen, club president Dennis Diodati said.

But amidst another mild winter, where snowmobiling opportunities have been extremely limited, even the inch or two of snow that fell during the early morning hours Saturday was enough to change some minds.

“If you own them you got to ride them,” said one rider said as he walked away from registration at the Jamestown Fireman’s Club. “The neighbors give me dirty looks when I ride them in the summer.”

About 45 individuals registered for the Pymatuning Trail Blazers Snowmobile Poker Run, one of the many fundraisers the club holds throughout the year to help offset the cost of maintaining its trails which span approximately 100 miles. Sharon Norris, her husband, Alan, and son, Dennis, were among them.

The Norris family resides in West Deer Township near Pittsburgh and also has a place in Espyville where they stayed this weekend with the hopes of participating in the poker run. The family purchased two sleds two years ago and have had only a handful of opportunities to ride them near their hometown.

The family did take a trip to New York recently, but Sharon said as of just a few weeks ago trails in that state had been closed due to lack of snow.

“They require a one-foot base to even have the trails open,” Alan said. “We’re going to give it a go here. There isn’t really enough snow, but we’ll see what happens.”

“The conditions really aren’t ideal,” said Joel Brown, event organizer. “There has been a decline in snow each year, but we have been fortunate all four years that it has snowed enough the day of or day before.”

There were no complaints from the group of about a dozen snowmobilers, who chose a guided tour from the Jamestown Fireman’s Club, as they headed inside The Anchorage, the first destination of the poker run, for a cup of chili. The poker run included eight destinations, including The Anchorage, Bob’s Place, Crystal Lake Inn, Jacob’s Gable Inn, Jamestown Fireman’s Club, Pymatuning Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club, Spillway Inn and Welcome Inn, all of which are accessible from the Trail Blazers’ trail system.

Daniel Galbreath, sales manager at Off Road Express in Erie, said mild winters the last two years have definitely played a factor in snowmobiling and other winter outdoor recreation.

“It has 110 percent hurt snowmobiling sales,” said Galbreath. “The last two seasons have been kind of down. It’s all in correlation to how much snow we get. If it’s sunny, people are buying motorcycles. If it’s snowing out, they are buying snowmobiles.

Galbreath is hopeful snow in the forecast will drive up sales.

When all is said and done, though, the 10 or so hours riders were able to get in on Saturday were a win win for all involved. Funds were raised to help offset annual cost of around $8,000 the Trail Blazers spend on upkeep of the trails and overhead. Some of the money raised will also be donated to the Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department.

It is also another event to help keep a booming tourist attraction in the spring and summer months active during the winter.

“It’s an opportunity for local businesses for sure,” Brown said.

Next up is the Pymatuning Trail Blazers’ 38th Annual Winter Fun Days at Pymatuning State Park on Feb. 8 and 9. Diodati said a number of new events are planned including the inaugural ice fishing tournament on Feb. 8 and pick-up hockey both days. “Hillbilly Curling” is also new on the agenda.

“They are trying a bunch of new stuff this year,” Diodati said.

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