Expanding ATV trails in southern Manitoba

Planning the path ahead with Polaris

by Jeff Johnson

Gary Hora is standing beside signage for one of the trails maintained by the Woodridge Sandhogs.

Gary Hora maintains trails for the Woodridge Sandhogs. — Photo courtesy Gary Hora

The Woodridge Sandhogs ATV Club in Manitoba have big plans for its local trail network.

Club president Gary Hora is looking to expand the trails near Woodridge, Manitoba, so they can stretch all the way down to the United States border. His goal is to reach the community of South Junction.

“It’s right across the line from Roseau, Minnesota, where Polaris is made. I have family that work for Polaris and I’m trying to see if Polaris Industries will help through its grants program,” Hora said. “If we can get the main trunk line in place, it would add an extra 75 kilometres (47 miles) to our trail loop. Whether it gets in this year or not will depend mostly on funding.”

A connection with Polaris

Hora has seen Polaris vehicles test driven through their trail network in the past and has had the support of the company for Woodridge Sandhogs’ projects in the past.

Woodridge Sandhogs have their ATVs parked trailside while out on a local ride.

Club members enjoy the weather out on the trails near Woodridge, Manitoba. — Photo courtesy Woodridge Sandhogs

“Polaris has actually been a very good supporter of what we do,” Hora said. “Then again, a lot of our local dealerships have always supported the local clubs with events and stuff like that, so we get quite a bit of sponsorship at home in that way, so that’s been good.”

He believes an expansion of the trail to South Junction would also benefit Polaris.

“The nice thing about Polaris is they actually come here and do all their test riding on sleds and quads as they produce them,” Hora said. “They’ll drive from Minnesota across the Canadian border and quite often come to Woodridge, Manitoba–it’s always been one of their go-to spots.”

Connecting Manitoban communities

Hora feels local communities would also benefit from an increase to the local trail network. He said the 75-kilometre expansion to the trail loops would make a great access point to four other towns in the Woodridge area.

“It expands the tourism in our municipality,” Hora said. “With a longer trunk line, we are attaching communities, so I think it would be a good, safe trail for our families that wish to go from one town to another whether it’s for fuel or food.”

The expansion project has been in the works since 2018 but requires both volunteer hours and funding to make it happen.

“That’s getting harder to come by. It’s easy enough to say let’s put a trail in, but when you got to get boots on the ground and equipment on the ground, help becomes scarce and funding is very tough to come by,” Hora said.  “A lot of governments have tightened up those belts, so it has become a lot of in-kind contributions, so it’s really difficult to get new trails going.”

More work ahead for the Sandhogs

This isn’t the first major trail project the Woodridge Sandhogs has taken on. Shortly after the group was founded in 2008, its members were advocating to the Manitoba government for more trails to be developed.

“Since 2010, we were lobbying to have actual designated trails on Crown land in our area. In 2015, we finally got approvals to go through a pilot project to have those trails on Crown land. It was a first in Manitoba,” Hora said. “We’ve been maintaining them since. They see a lot of traffic, because of the open lands, the Crown lands and all the forests and stuff. A lot of people come from Winnipeg.”

As the club’s president, Hora recognizes that expanding the trail network to the U.S. border would also help increase safety for everyone involved, especially for Polaris test riders and engineers.

“They have their rules on safety so that would be my angle on it. Give them a safe route to Woodridge,” Hora said.

Upcoming events:

The Woodridge Sandhogs has two major rides coming up in 2019, supporting two charitable groups.

On July 6, the Sandhogs will be supporting Enabled Outdoors.

“What they have been doing for the last 10 years is going on hunting and fishing trips with children who can normally never get out, who might have autism or physical disabilities, terminal cancers,” Gary Hora said. “This year, they want to do family quad rides, so we’re going to have several volunteers or sponsors donating three-seater and four-seater machines for that.”

The Sandhogs will also host the Adult and Teen Challenge on September 28.

“They will be doing their third ride this year,” Hora said. “They are raising funds for helping teens and adults who are addicted to drugs and alcohol in order to get them into a program and get them cleaned up.”

Hora is happy the challenge continues to have success on their trail network.

“They will often send me seven or eight guys to come and do trail work prior to the ride and after the ride to get them out and away from the demons and the lifestyle they got caught up with,” Hora said.

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