ATV trails in the southeast are now officially open for the season and according to the Woodridge ATV Sandhogs president, they are also in good condition.

Gary Hora says, “the trails did really well because we didn't have much of a winter to speak of. We didn't see the amount of snow or cold that we normally would, and luckily, we didn't have major windstorms or anything like that, so the trails held up pretty well.”

Hora says there were not a lot of downed trees, and everything dried up pretty fast.

"We were out on the trails last weekend, to open them up, and just to make sure everything was ok out there, and we found they were very dusty, so the rains we're getting now are much needed, and hopefully things will start getting green up to make it a little safer out there, because we don't need any grass fires and stuff like that.”

With the lack of moisture this winter, Hora says riders choosing to take to the trails should be cautious about a few things.

“The main thing is everything is dead grass right now, nothing's greened up, and it's very flammable. So, if you are playing, you know, in the mud and things, do stop and take the time to check to see if there's any debris on your exhaust or your muffler because that debris does dry off and become embers, and that can easily start a fire.”

Hora continues saying, “It's also important to be mindful of your actions while you're out trying to enjoy the day riding. It's difficult to fight a forest fire right now, especially because the lakes still have ice on them, and the water bombers can't be called in to help. So, it's going to be done by ground crews, which makes it a challenge as well. So, we just need to be mindful of our actions when we're in the bush.”

Hora notes to keep the risk of fire low we really need more rain, “but we also need that heat to get the vegetation growing. If we have overnight lows that are always into the minus ones minus threes, it sort of stunts the growth of a lot of vegetation.”

He says ideally if we have plus 15’s for daytime highs over the next three to four weeks, “we should be in a much safer place in the forest and less of a chance of fires.”

Hora says their trails have already seen a lot of traffic, so their volunteers are busy clearing the trails.

“Now we're going to focus our efforts on getting into some maintenance and grooming of the trails, because we definitely have some rough spots and you know, there's also some areas we want to add gravel into low spots. So that's where we'll start focusing our efforts.”

“But the trails are open, and everything is passible. And again, we didn't get quite the snowpack from last year, so you won't have a lot of standing water in places and things like that. So, it's an early season compared to last year that's for sure.”

Hora adds there are a few sections of trails that are shared with the Southeast SnoRiders, and some of the brush clearing and forestry maintenance has been done by both organizations. He says this teamwork is much appreciated as it also benefits both groups.

Gary Hora (2nd from right) with members of Access Credit Union at 2024 Woodridge ATV Sandhogs fundraiserGary Hora (2nd from right) with members of Access Credit Union at 2024 Woodridge ATV Sandhogs fundraiser. (Photo credit: Gary Hora)

That said, there are always expenses to cover. Hora notes the Woodridge ATV Sandhogs held a fundraising event last month where they received a 500-dollar donation from Access Credit Union.

“We did not know that we could apply for funds from a bank, but through “Access gives back to the community”, which is excellent, we got a nice cheque, which we will use to buy some equipment and pay for loads of gravel and contractors to help spread it out this spring. So, that was really excellent of Access to do that. It was much appreciated.”

Looking ahead at the upcoming riding season, Hora notes ATV’ers will see a lot of changes with a lot of the clubs across the province.

“We’re all gearing up for another exciting season. I think most of the clubs are really focusing on trying to get grooming and shaping up of the trails because as they're used more and more there's more damage done to the trail; hence you have to fix it.”

Hora is also the president of the All-Terrian Vehicle Association of Manitoba (ATVMB) and he says, “I've talked to other clubs too and that's their general focus for this year, so we're just really looking forward to a fun season, hoping we don't have any fire bans or backcountry travel restrictions so we can get these jobs done and get out there and have a great time.”