AUGUSTA, Maine. (WABI) Snowmobile clubs across the state are in desperate need of volunteers.
Membership has hit an all-time low for many clubs and the few members that do maintain and groom the trails can't sustain the quality of work.
"We have this remarkable trail system, 14,000 miles. It drives a $350 million a year industry and the infrastructure is built on the backs of volunteer labor," said Bob Meyers, Executive Director of the Maine Snowmobile Association.
He says the snowmobile industry is a major economic driver in the wintertime for the state.
But despite registrations and riders expectations being on the rise, the number of those maintaining the intricate trail system has been on the decline for years.
"You had 85,000 riders out here last year and it's just a handful of people that are making this happen," said Meyers.
"People doing all the trail work- they're all people with grey hair. Very few clubs have young members."
Mark Lapointe took over as trail master for the Fox Glen Snowmobile Club in 2012. At that time they had 32 members. Now, there's nine, with only five members tending to the more than 30 miles of trails leading to Vassalboro, South China, and Chelsea.
He says it's a lot of dedicated time for his crew with little appreciation from the riders that use the trails.
"And then you get this kid that goes up and does zigzags up your hill. I caught up with one of them one year and said, 'why don't you join the snowmobile club?' And he says, 'why? You're going to groom the trails anyway.' That was the attitude," said Lapointe.
After years of declining membership, the Fox Glen Snowmobile Club had to sell its clubhouse in Augusta when members could no longer afford the costs to maintain the building.
"We're still going to try to stay a snowmobile club and do the trail work but us five that are doing it are getting worn out," said Lapointe.
From the beginning of October, Fox Glen members are out every Sunday for hours grooming trails in preparation for the snowmobiling season. Lapointe says when they had the help, they'd be finished by Thanksgiving. But for the past few years they've been working past Christmas.
"People these days, they're working more, they have all kinds of obligations and responsibilities with kids, and families, and things. But, you know, they always seem to find the time to ride, they need to find a little time to lend a hand," said Meyers.