This well written article discusses the Shrewsbury Sno-Birds club history. Originally published in the December 2011 issue of the Times of Shrewsbury, a local publication by the Town of Shrewsbury, Vermont. It is republished here with the permission of the Town of Shrewsbury.
The Shrewsbury Sno-Birds Celebrate Their History
by S. Korinchak
The Sno-Birds have covered a lot of miles over the past 40 years—through our scenic backwoods of Vermont, and also along the more permanent road of giving back to the Shrewsbury and Rutland communities.
On the “scenic backwoods” side of things, the Shrewsbury snowmobile club maintains and grooms about 36 miles of trails in Shrewsbury. Rick Lees, the club’s current president, says that the Sno-Birds members who keep those trails in shape do a fantastic job, and keep Shrewsbury known far and wide for its high-quality trails. Besides the Sno-Birds there are 137 other clubs statewide, with over 35,000 members combined, so the trails get a lot of use.
Since groomers can cost $75,000. and up, the trail grooming and maintenance is a large investment of money as well as time. Lees emphasizes the cooperative nature of the Sno-Birds in terms of making this possible: “The funding doesn’t all come from the tooth fairy; it comes from the money we raise, and from the fact that everyone volunteers their time and work.”
It all started on the fateful evening of March 31, 1971, when three Shrewsbury residents got a group of other interested folks together to talk. Everyone sitting together in the Cuttingsville Firehouse that day agreed it was time to formalize a group, and they spent that summer discussing and deciding upon bylaws. On October 21 of that year, they proudly filed their bylaws with the State of Vermont, and the Sno-Birds were official, complete with officers: Louis Carrara as President, Mike Carrara as Vice President, and Patricia Michaud (who, Lees mentions, now lives in New York State) as Secretary-Treasurer. The Sno-Birds were created with these goals in mind:
- To promote and encourage better relationships between Snowbilers and land-owners.
- To promote and encourage the preservation and protection of our natural environment.
- To educate Snowbilers, young and old, in safe and proper Snowmobile practices.
- To develop snowmobile facilities and provide information regarding such facilities.
- To represent snowmobilers and landowners in matters concerning their common interest.
The group continues to have monthly meetings today, when they make plans for how best to continue those efforts. They also offer a safety course completion certificate which is required by law. The Sno-Birds hold an official course, and work with youth to teach them the laws and rules.
Early in the Sno-Birds’ existence, the Vermont Achievement Center (VAC), located on Park Street in Rutland, became one of its special causes. The VAC supports children and teens who have special education needs. “Someone from VAC mentioned ‘We need a van to be able to take the kids on outings,’” Lees explained, and that remark led to decades of fundraising support by the Sno-Birds for the VAC. The Shrewsbury Sno-Birds helped the VAC buy that initial van, and in later years, has also helped fund the building and maintenance of the Center’s Mitchell Therapy Pool, an indoor, heated and specially equipped therapy pool for adults and children. Over the past 20 years plus, Lees estimates, the Sno-Birds and the 17 other clubs in Rutland County raised and donated a total of about a half million dollars to the VAC—as an honorary plaque on the wall there attests.
Snowmobiling has changed with society, Lees notes. “Back in the day, there were family outings more often; on weekends, parents and kids would ride out together, they’d spend time catching up with each other, the guys would bring a picnic and do a cookout.” Nowadays, especially with kids’ activities being tightly scheduled and programmed, not so many youngsters and families in Shrewsbury have the time to go out for that sort of ride. Still, snowmobilers do honor their “family-style” roots, and group rides are part of the enjoyment.
From the founding Vermont State charter in 1971: “Section 7: It is requested that all Club members be identified by Club patch on clothing or machine.”
He also points out of the Sno-Birds, “We try to work out meetings of the minds; other groups of people have their needs and so do we. Cross-country skiers do appreciate having the trails groomed, and that’s one good example of how we can share and enjoy the state together.” A network of snowmobile trails runs continuously from Bennington all the way north to Canada, but that wasn’t always the case, Lees says for years a parcel of land in Mendon near Wheelerville Road was made out of bounds. The Sno-Birds worked over several years to mend the rifts, and were a large part of the reason the trail was eventually reopened. A recent test of the Sno-Birds’ mettle, he mentions, resulted from the Irene damage. “But thanks to a tremendous effort from the Sno-Birds—these are great people, hard workers—snowmobilers will actually be able to get through the Shrewsbury segment of the trail this winter.” The club has replaced 7 ruined bridges, and Lees estimates that about half the trails in Shrewsbury needed to be remolded or substantially reworked.
However, it can be a bit of a comfort to have 40 years of history under your belt, so that you can reminisce and count your blessings. As Lees reminds us: “I have all the respect in the world for those old-timers. That wasn’t the age of fancy chainsaws! Today we can take power tools or an excavator and make shorter work of a trail fix…but they had to saw out each trail by hand. It was all physical labor.”
Why snowmobile? “Being outdoors. Enjoying our landscape. The camaraderie,” Lees says, looking out a window at the crisp fall view. “On a day like this, sunny, snow covering everything…then getting to the top of a mountain, and looking out at the landscape: you can’t beat it.”