CARP – The Sept. 15 West Carleton Snowmobile Trails Association (WCSTA) annual general meeting brought in a new board president and hope the fall weather will soon bring in the snow.

A small group of about 15 WCSTA members and the board attended the meeting held at the Carp Agricultural Hall after initially being scheduled for the Kinburn Community Centre.

The fact the agricultural hall had in instituted cleaning procedure related to COVID-19 and space for social distancing was stated as the reason for the move.

The WCSTA maintains and manages 250 kilometres of trails just west of the city in the Ottawa Valley. It’s an important link to popular snowmobiling locations such as Renfrew and Lanark counties. The WCSTA hopes to become an important link to western Quebec as well as it works on building the world’s longest snowmobile bridge over the Ottawa River.

West Carleton Online was unable to attend the AGM as the publisher chose to attend a retirement party for a very popular store owner that evening instead.

But we spoke to WCSTA member Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, a long-time snowmobile enthusiast, Sept. 25 who did attend the meeting. The big news of the AGM was the election of new WCSTA President Paul McDonald, moving up from the vice president position for the 2020-2021 year.

“He’s well known to everyone,” El-Chantiry said about the new president.

And he has his work cut out for them. Last year, as the season opened, about 25 per cent of the WCSTA’s “most popular trails” remained closed as the association negotiated with the city on access.

It was an insurance issue, and it delayed full access to West Carleton’s trails until Feb. 7.

El-Chantiry says the WCSTA and other stakeholders have already started their negotiations with the City of Ottawa and insurers for this season.

“They are already working on the city licensing agreement so what happened last year, doesn’t happen this year,” El-Chantiry said.

Another major project of the WCSTA is re-fitting an old railway bridge across the Ottawa River at Vydon Acres on the West Carleton side. It is a project the club has been working on since 2019. The bridges need to be decked in order to safely provide access to the Quebec side of the river.

“Pretty much, we’re still fundraising,” El-Chantiry said.

The club boasts membership between 900 and 1,100 snowmobilers on any given year, and is in that 900 to 1,000 range this year so far.

“Which is a good number,” El-Chantiry said. “The club is in good shape.”