The Nipmuck Trail Riders Snowmobile Club makes the most of winter
By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Thu., Feb. 24, 2011
By now, the notable winter of 2011 has probably made most folks winter-weary, but there are some who turn the tides on winter's fury by finding enjoyment in winter recreation. Snowmobiling is a prime example.
Curiously, this year's abundant snowfall has not changed the snowmobile market. New and used snowmobile sales are consistent with the past three years, according to Bob Charland, who runs Shark Cycle in Stafford Springs. However, according to Charland, snowmobile parts and accessories sales are up, which could be an indication that those with snowmobiles are making the best possible use of them this year. No doubt, some of those snowmobiles are probably owned by members of the Nipmuck Trail Riders.
A private snowmobile club founded in 1972, the Nipmuck Trail Riders Snowmobile Club, Inc. has been making the most of winter for nearly four decades.
According to Martin Michalec, one the club's co-founders, the organization started out with 40 to 50 members.
“We started the club so we could have good family outings and enjoy the sport,” said Michalec.
At age 86, Michalec still takes to the snowmobile trails and is very active in the club. “I rode 38 miles this morning,” he said.
According to Michalec, throughout the years, the club has developed a relationship with private land owners whose property adjoins the Nipmuck State Forest lands through which the trail system runs.
Today, nearly 75 club members are able to enjoy the nearly 80 miles of complex, networked trails that are made possible with the cooperation of 34 private land owners. The Connecticut trail system runs through Ashford, Stafford, Union and Willington, with the trails extending into Holland and Wales, Mass.
According to Michalec, members come from local and distant towns, including Ashford, Cheshire, Kensington, Norwalk, New Haven, Southington, Stafford, Union, Willington and Holland, Mass.
The club's president, Lenny Blotniski, is from Ellington. He joined the club 10 years ago.
“We are the only organized group in Connecticut that sponsors snowmobile riding. We work in cooperation with the state of Connecticut,” said Blotniski.
Members of the club are entitled to enjoy the trails, but they are also expected to provide services to the club. With so many miles of trails to care for, members must do their part to maintain the trail system. Private landowners are also required to keep their portion of the trails accessible. New members are obligated to put in 16 hours of volunteer time towards trail maintenance.
The exclusive Nipmuck Trail Riders are serious about their club and their trails.
“We have trouble with outsiders riding on our trails. We have designated club stickers, all members are requested to stop snowmobilers they see on club trails and make them aware that the trails are private use. A waiver allows members to ride trails without making land owners liable, ” said Blotniski.
According to Blotniski, four wheelers are not allowed on the trails at any time, and those vehicles are prohibited in any state forest in the state of Connecticut. “They can only be used on private property. They come from Massachusetts without permission. They are not allowed. We stop them and make them aware that they are not welcome in the trail system. DEP enforcement could be notified if there is a problem,” he said.
“All people are welcome to our club. It's a very well-organized club, and we can take on membership from other towns. It's a fun sport in the state of Connecticut. I'm proud to be part of this organized group,” stated Blotniski.
Michalec says the club is self-funding. The membership fees help support the club, but each year, water skip events are the major fundraisers.
“The water skip is held in the summertime, the first weekend in July and August. We invite people from all over New England and Canada to participate,” said Blotniski.
The club's season runs from September through April. During that time, club members meet monthly on each second Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall in Stafford Hollow. Those who are interested in joining the club or learning more about it, or about snowmobiling, should contact Lenny Blotniski at 860-875-6937 or Martin Michalec at 860-684-2228.