Signs in the snow

Signs like this one, located on the City of Prince Albert snowmobile bypass route near Nordale, have been disappearing throughout the winter. Members of the Prince Albert Trail Riders, the group responsible for maintaining the route, say it’s more than just an annoyance. It’s also safety concern. (Jason Kerr/Daily Herald)

For much of the past few months, Gerry Dolezar and members of the Prince Albert Trail Riders have kept up an unwanted routine.

The organization maintains the snowmobile trails in and around Prince Albert with equipment they built or purchased themselves. Typically that involves nothing more than grooming a trail the same way you would a ski slope. However, more and more, Dolezar and his fellow club members have spent their days putting up trail markers again and again and again.

“It’s been an issue since day one, particularly within the city,” said Dolezar, who currently serves as the club’s treasurer. “We have places in the city where we have replaced the stakes four or five times and we go back there and somebody has taken them again.”

It’s an irritating task, but the frustration isn’t their main problem. These trail markers serve the same purpose as road signs on Prince Albert streets. At best, drivers will only get lost, but Dolezar’s major concern is much worse.

“These (signs) are used normally at the road crossings and places where there’s a reason to stop,” he explained. “If the sign’s not there, the snowmobiler comes along and doesn’t realize he’s supposed to stop (and) he drives out in front of a car or truck or whatever. We have them there for a reason.”

The thefts are not without a few leads. The organization has had problems with drivers who take their trucks onto the freshly groomed trails and drive over top of their stakes and signs, even those with reflectors on them. They also constantly find them ripped up and tossed into the nearest bush, although that often just adds to the confusion.

“Maybe they’re taking a dog for a walk and using them to play fetch,” chuckled Dolezar, who hasn’t lost his sense of humour over the issue. “I’m not sure. All I know is they’re disappearing.”

Dolezar and his compatriots expect to find a few more once they take all the stakes out after the snow melts. They’re hoping next year will be better, especially since they make all the signs themselves.

The organization stresses that they don’t want anyone fined or jailed. They just want to be left alone.

“People just don’t seem to understand that this is a good thing,” Dolezar said. “We’re trying to do it the right way. We’re doing it because we want to make (snowmobiling) safe. We want to make it family friendly.”

This winter marks the second year in a row snowmobilers have been able to use a bypass route. Technically, it takes them around Prince Albert, although at some points, like the far south end of Sixth Avenue East, they do enter city limits.