Snowmobile trails in Larose Forest are closed and trail-grooming work suspended while the United Counties of Prescott-Russell and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs work out a dispute over trail user liability insurance coverage.
Snowmobile trails in Larose Forest are closed and trail-grooming work suspended while the United Counties of Prescott-Russell and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs work out a dispute over trail user liability insurance coverage.

Insurance dispute closes snowmobile trails

A dispute about insurance coverage between the United Counties of Prescott-Russell and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs has closed many popular snowmobiling trails in the Prescott-Russell region.

“If we’re lucky, we’ll get something resolved for the local club,” said Louis Prévost, planning and forestry director for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR). “It’s a big part of our (winter) economy.”

The problem concerns a change that the Ontario Federal of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) wanted for the Certificate of Insurance (CI) that the UCPR requires each year to allow OFSC members to use the snowmobile trails in the Larose Forest, ride their machines on the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail, and also along the rights-of-way of specific county roads. The certificate covers OFSC members on these routes in the UCPR for the period from December to April when the snow cover permits.

“To make sure their insurance covers any liability,” said Prévost, regarding the certificate. “We have the same insurance requirement for all other trail users.”

The problem began last year before December when the OFSC presented the UCPR with the insurance documents. Prévost said the documents had “information missing” regarding liability coverage.

“Basically, it would limit their (OFSC) exposure,” Prévost said, regarding insurance coverage in case an OFSC member has an accident on a trail route. “We want to ensure that we won’t get sued, or if we do, then the OFSC insurance would cover it. We don’t have the proper (OFSC) insurance so the trails remain closed.”

A press release from the OFSC on its website states “there has been no change” to the OFSC insurance coverage and that “any information stating our coverage has been altered is false.” The OFSC alleges that trail-use agreements for some its member clubs in the past made them and their riders liable for activities “completely unrelated to snowmobile trail operations.”

Prévost said that the agreement with the OFSC has always covered snowmobile use on UCPR trails just during the period from December to April when trail conditions allowed. He also noted that the dispute with the OFSC over liability coverage is not limited to the UCPR.

“I know the City of Ottawa is concerned,” he said, “and it’s like that all over the province.”

The issue will be part UCPR council’s January 29 agenda for the closed portion of the meeting when legal matters are discussed. Meanwhile, Prévost said, his department is talking to the UCPR’s legal counsel to try and work out some kind of arrangement with the Eastern Ontario Snowmobile Club that will allows its members to ride the local trails.

“That’s where we’re at right now,” he said.

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