KANE — The Allegheny National Forest has approximately 360 miles of trails for snowmobile use in the winter, and Highland Township supervisor and Russell City resident Jim Wolfe volunteers his time to maintain these trails.
In conjunction with the Allegheny National Forest, the Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association, and various local snowmobile groups, Wolfe has helped repair and rehabilitate approximately 40 miles of snowmobile trails. He has been involved with this endeavor since 1990, and acknowledges that it is truly a labor of love.
“A lot of it is a lot of work,” Wolfe said. “We just clean them up and make them better to ride on.”
Wolfe said that keeping the trails dry and wide enough are key elements in keeping the trails rideable. He said a groomer, or a tractor that pulls equipment for trail maintenance, is used to drag dirt to help keep the trail smooth. He said taking sharp bends out of the trails to get the groomer on the trail for maintenance is critical.
Only a small portion of the trails are used year around. Wolfe said of the 360 miles of snowmobile trails on the forest, only about 20 miles are shared with all-terrain vehicle riders. There are approximately 100 miles of ATV trails that exist on the forest.
Wolfe said the greatest impact the trails have on the area is tourism. He said in a good snow, it is not at all uncommon to see 200 snowmobiles on the trails. Wolfe also said there is a trail in Kane that connects to those on the forest. He said the trail, which crosses U.S. Route 6 by Kane Community Hospital, is a unique trail for not just the area, but all of Pennsylvania.
“It’s the only trail in Pennsylvania that has a hospital on it,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said the work that he does is based entirely around maintenance and not trail creation. He said there is a certain amount of cost along with all the work that needs to be done when it comes to trail creation.
“Trail creation is a real big deal,” Wolfe said. “You have to file an environmental impact statement and somebody’s got to pay for that. The forest service is not leaning towards opening more trails right now.”
Wolfe said there is a possibility that turning the abandoned rail corridors in the area into snowmobile trails could prove helpful. He said there has been interest in Marienville, Kane and other places which surround the forest in a rail-trail that links their communities with the trail system in the forest more effectively. Wolfe cited the rail-trail that is in the works between Kinzua Bridge State Park and Lantz Corners. However, he said that such an undertaking could prove challenging.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t like it,” Wolfe said. “The railroad runs within 20 feet of people’s houses, especially in the Kane area.”
For those interested in finding a local snowmobile club, visit the Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association’s website at http://www.pasnow.org/ for more details.