TROY - These days, there's a lot more going on with members of The Armenia Mountain Snowmobile Club than riding around on snowmobiles.

From communicating on their own Facebook page to mulling the possibility of a new trail system, club members are hoping to rejuvenate their organization while maintaining their heritage.

"This year, a number of members are looking to preserve the rich history of the club, promote the sport of snowmobiling, and plan for the future," a news release from the club reads. "In order to do this, directors are attempting to harness the experience of long-term members, focus the energy of younger generations and formally communicate with the community and landowners."

In the club's glory days, the club had hundreds of members, but in recent years, the membership has gone down. Currently, the club has 80 members, according to club member Kelly Watkins.

"For decades, the club relied on family tradition, snail mail and poker runs to maintain membership," the club stated in the news release. "It doesn't take too many cancelled events, due to lack of snow, for people to have the impression the club is not alive. Climate change, lack of participation, windmills and gas wells have all had their effect."

 

Facing challenges

 

Today, the club's original trail system is in place, but it's broken up by the aforementioned gas wells and wind turbines that have been built in recent years. The club's challenge, Watkins said, is finding new trails around the obstructions so that snowmobile riders can have an uninterrupted ride.

"With the mountain environment changing in the last few years due to increased population, wind and natural gas developments, the trail systems, ridden for generations, are changing drastically," the club's news release noted.

Club members are seeking the cooperation of landowners, and want to educate them, in their effort to improve the trail system.

In the news release, the club stated that it "would like to work with the land owners, on and off Armenia Mountain, to respect private property, make the best use of public lands and ultimately to make the riding experience more accessible."

According to the news release, many private landowners fear lawsuits concerning snowmobile use.

However, the club noted, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a law that limits the legal liability of landowners who make their land available to the public for free recreation. "The Recreational Use of Land and Water Act (RULWA) creates that incentive by limiting the traditional duty of care that landowners owe to entrants upon their land," the news release stated. "The Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association (PSSA) works hard at the state level to lobby such laws and provides more information on their website: www.pasnow.org."

The Armenia Mountain Snowmobile Club encourages landowners to contact them and/or attend a meeting to voice concerns.

"While not all snowmobile riders are members, the club may be able to facilitate a resolution to problem areas," the club's news release stated. "Specifically, directors would like to open dialogue on: where to ride, what landowners would or wouldn't like to see happen in the future, and how all involved can work together to accomplish this. Many landowners don't mind snowmobiling, but they may have specific areas that they would like riders to stay away from."

Kelly and Scott Watkins, who said they are both landowners on Armenia Mountain, snowmobile enthusiasts and club members, stressed that when trails are marked and available, the snowmobile riders will use them. Breaking trails and veering off the proper trails is difficult and not something most riders want to do, they said.

In its news release, the club stated, "With increased legal and illegal off-road vehicle use, many landowners are skeptical of snowmobiles using their land, when in fact, sleds on snow leave little or no damage. With the windmills and gas wells, riders have lost several access points to some excellent trails."

In addition, the club is working with the various townships for access to township roads to go from trail to trail.

"A good snow base on the roads or even alongside the road is a very important asset to the snowmobilers," the club's news release stated.

 

Long-time member looks back, ahead

 

Dick Roloson of Sylvania, the club president, has been in the club since the 1980s.

He would like to see the trails improved, which he said will get more members. He said the biggest problem these days is the obstructions on the trails presented by the gas wells and wind turbines.

He said he has a lot of good memories of the club, and he spent a lot of time with his sons at the club while they were growing up.

"I met a lot of good people up there," he said. He said it's a good way to socialize. He enjoys being in the outdoors on the snowmobile.

He said the scenery and the thrill of the ride is great. Roloson added that there has been less snow over the past 20 years. He hopes the snow situation will improve in the future.

"You have no control over that," he said with a laugh.

 

Other efforts

According to the club news release, the organization recently elected new officials and "is looking for very productive years to come."

Here are the club's current officers: President, Dick Roloson; Vice President, Ron McClure; Secretary, Rosemary Wynott; Treasurer, Priscilla Knapp; Directors, Scott Watkins, Kelly Watkins, Ralph Knapp, Keith Morgan, Erik Roloson and Dean Pauling.

"Discussions about what to do with an aging, outdated clubhouse are happening and all possibilities are being considered," the news release continued. "This will definitely take the work of a lot of members, no matter the outcome. Along with updating the clubhouse, the club is undertaking other initiatives to communicate with its members and provide services."

As for new members, Kelly Watkins said they hope to try and get as many as possible.

Also, the organization has created a Facebook page "to encourage input and

updates on mountain riding conditions, and club activities." Meanwhile, a few members are using GPS to keep other club members aware of the trails and conditions.

The Facebook page, Watkins said, has worked out well. Currently, the page has 187 "Likes."

Many local businesses support the club and individual or family memberships are available, according to the news release. Any snowmobiling enthusiasts are welcome to join. For more information or to present comments or concerns regarding the club, contact Kelly Watkins at (570) 297-4018 or contact her by mail at 1265 Watkins Hill Rd., Columbia Cross Roads, Pa. 16914. Club meetings are held on the first Friday of each month at 7 pm at the clubhouse, just off Mountain Avenue, on Armenia Mountain.

Watkins said membership is affordable: individual, $10; family, $12; and corporate, $25, which includes membership and advertisement in the club newsletter.

Looking ahead, the club is focusing on open communication with land owners, township officials and members in order to address the changing landscape of Armenia Mountain.

"Snowmobiling is tradition and entertainment," the club's news release stated. "It can bring enthusiasts to the area, supporting local businesses. While looking back to the rich history of snowmobiling as a family sport, geared to embrace the winter months, the Armenia Mountain Snowmobile Club is moving to the future."

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com.