The Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority (SSMRCA) along with Hiawatha Highlands (a division of the Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club) would like to clarify public access to the Trails in the Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area during the winter months.
The SSMRCA owns and manages the lands on which some of the cross-country ski trail system lie. SSMRCA properties are not Crown Land, but private property owned by the SSMRCA which is a corporate body. The SSMRCA encourages recreation, education and research activities on its properties. Under R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 134, the SSMRCA determines which activities are permitted on its properties. This regulation includes the right to restrict activities such as, no motorized vehicles, no hunting, no camping, no fires, etc. without a permit from the SSMRCA.
The Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club leases land in the Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area from the SSMRCA from November to April of each year. This land use agreement allows “exclusive” use of designated trails such as the Pinder Trail for cross country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter months. Some other conservation areas belonging to the SSMRCA do not have groomed ski trails and are accessible year-round. In order to provide groomed ski trails for cross country skiers; walking, hiking and biking on groomed trails is not permitted during the winter.
Although walking on the trails and taking photos in the winter has occurred for several years without incident, due to recent and ongoing trail user conflicts as well as damage to the groomed trails the ski club has developed a new policy for public safety.
The purpose of the new policy is to help photographers and their clients, as well as the skiers to avoid conflict.
The Hiawatha Highlands is pleased to offer trail passes for purchase and transportation of photographers and their clients to and from their desired location. Designated staff will accompany groups for their photo shoots. The staff member will help skiers safely navigate around the photo shoot. They will also advocate for the photographer and their clients during the entire process including transportation to and from their vehicles. After a scheduled photo shoot any required grooming or repair of the trails will take place. Since providing this service will involve approximately 3 hours of paid staff time, specialized equipment and fuel costs, a fee will be charged.
Hiawatha Highlands is a not for profit organization, however, grooming trails for cross country skiing is a very expensive undertaking. Repair of the trails following an activity of this nature is required to protect the safety of the trail pass holders as holes in the tracks and trails, or lack of trails, can cause some skiers to fall resulting in injury.
The Pinder trail system is used by 70% of all Hiawatha Highlands trail pass holders, of whom a large number are seniors or beginner skiers looking for a relatively flat ski trail.
Hiawatha Highlands and the SSMRCA are working together to ensure safety for skiers and access for photographers and their clients. Thank you for your continued cooperation.
For inquiries regarding scheduling and fees for photography sessions please contact the Hiawatha Highlands at 705-256-7258