Snowmobile trails in the County Forest currently closed pending updated annual agreement

Cobourg, ON - February 3, 2021 - Northumberland County is advising residents that snowmobiling is currently not permitted in the Northumberland County Forest. County Forest trails are accessible to snowmobilers through an annual agreement between the County and the Great Pine Ridge Snowmobile Association (GPRSA). To date, the County and the snowmobile club have been unable to reach a mutually-acceptable agreement for the 2020/2021 season. Motorized trails in the Forest remain closed until an agreement is in place.

In late 2019, following a standard review of the existing annual Memorandum of Understanding with the club, Northumberland County proposed an updated license agreement that would strengthen protections for the County and local taxpayers from liability and risk exposure related to snowmobiling in the County Forest. As a motorized sport, snowmobiling includes a higher degree of risk for accidents and injuries than many other recreation activities permitted in the Forest.

Municipalities are facing growing liability and insurance costs due the principle of Joint and Several Liability. Under this legal framework, if the plaintiff in a lawsuit is awarded damages, and the County is found to be even one (1) per cent responsible, the County could be liable for 100 per cent of a plaintiff’s damages should the other defendants to the lawsuit be unable to pay. A serious claim could result in the County paying millions of dollars in damage awards, even if deemed responsible for only a fraction of the fault, with these costs then passed on to residents and businesses through necessary property tax increases. As a steward of taxpayer dollars, the County is seeking an updated agreement with the snowmobile club to mitigate this risk.

“Northumberland County is striving to ensure that snowmobilers can continue to enjoy the trails in the County Forest this winter and in the future. However, local taxpayers cannot disproportionately subsidize the risks related to this activity,” states County Warden Bob Crate. “The County Forest is a place where residents and visitors can come to enjoy outdoor recreation and connection with nature, and Council recognizes that both are vital to physical and mental well-being, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The County appreciates its longstanding collaboration with the GPRSA to ensure snowmobile enthusiasts are able to access the Forest trail network, and we want this to continue. We are hopeful that we can get an updated agreement in place that enables snowmobilers to get back out on the trails while ensuring an acceptable level of risk for the County and Northumberland taxpayers.”

For more information about the current status of snowmobiling in the Northumberland County Forest, view our Frequently Asked Questions page.