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Real facts on landowner protections related to snowmobile trails

To The Editor,

There has a been a dead end, since the end of December, between the UCPR (United Counties of Prescott-Russell) and the OFSC (Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs). The issue relates to the insurance that protects the landowners who are gracefully lending their properties for a positive contribution to their local community and to participate in establishing the 380 kilometres of snowmobile trails of the Eastern Ontario Snowmobile Club in Prescott-Russell.

The OFSC has a first plan Commercial General liability insurance protecting the landowners for an amount of $15 million per occurrence for any incidents on the landowner’s property in relation with the operations of organized snowmobiling.

When an owner or a corporation generously consents to allow the establishment of a snowmobile trail, for the winter season, on his land, he becomes an entity protected under the Commercial General liability OFSC provincial insurance.  The valid consents can take effect between the EOSC and the landowner through either a simple verbal acknowledgement, a handshake or with a handwritten signature on the standard OFSC 1 pager “Prescribed Trail Landowner User Permission” form.  These different simple engagement methods are all honoured and renewable on an annual basis.

The participating landowners do not have to worry about any problems that may arise. Examples: Mother Nature fells a tree on the trail, a flash flood in a ditch, an injured snowmobiler, an injured trespasser, grooming activities accidents, injured volunteers doing maintenance and/or staking trails or any other incidents involving having a snowmobile trail on a property.

In 50 year of OFSC’s existence, the provincial federation representing the 228 Ontarian snowmobile clubs, and which manages the 28,000 kilometres m of interconnected trail network, has never had a landowner or a corporation prosecuted successfully. The OFSC takes care of the landowner by covering the investigation fees, lawyers, court fees, lawsuit payouts if necessary, for the 30000+ Ontarian landowners.

To clarify the recent UCPR/EOSC custom agreement conflict; landowners are protected. Anyone who spreads rumors that the landowners aren’t properly covered is spreading baseless rumours. If only 1 out of 30000+ landowners would have been prosecuted and incurred financial losses in the past, the news would spread like wildfire. Since the OFSC has an excellent partnership with the agricultural community and the OFA (Ontario Federation of Agriculture) would have put their members abreast of this exposure. (An example is in 2016 with the Ontario Bill 100 land easements where the OFSC had to intervene and lobbied successfully in favour of the AG community.)

The OFSC/UCPR insurer dispute stems from a UCPR custom personalized agreement where an indemnification clause is being debated.  As opposed to what has been said in the community, the OFSC insurance hasn’t changed in the last decade, however, the OFSC insurer decided to clarify the content and limitations of the insurance policy. The policy review was necessary due to the present turmoil in the insurance industry in general.

It is with collaboration that we hope the OFSC and the UCPR will get to a reasonable agreement to the benefit of keeping a healthy touristic sector for the local businesses, the volunteer clubs, the members, the snowmobile trail walkers/skiers/snowshoe hikers and the municipalities.

In the meantime, there’s no need to worry. Landowners who gave their consent are internally documented and protected at the EOSC and OFSC level.

Pascal Roy

Volunteer, Corporate Relations

613-793-7262


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