Snowmobilers ready to share trails

<I>The Eagle/Tina Cook</I><BR>John Bastian, Oregon State Snowmobile Association President, and wife Lindy, president of the Grant County Snowballers, with their dog, Cassie.

JOHN DAY - Local snowmobilers hope to get a lot of snow by January. They plan to share the woods Jan. 18 through 21, when Oregon State Snowmobile Association (OSSA) will hold its annual convention in Grant County.

"This is my fourth and last year (as president). That's why we're doing it here, to toot our own horn," said John Bastian of Canyon City and OSSA president.

The convention is usually held in Albany, but Bastian wanted to hold it in Grant County to show out-of-county snowmobilers what the county has to offer.

"All week we will have guided rides all over the forest because this whole thing is to promote Grant County and what we have here. We have the largest, maintained trail system of any club in the state, 536 miles worth of trails, and we have two snowcats to do it. They are all designated trails on the Malheur Forest. We will have all of those groomed and we are going to take everybody for rides on all of them, the trails and the play areas, and show them what we really have here," Bastian said.

Bastian anticipates a lot of snowmobile enthusiasts will be attending this year's convention. Snowmobilers from Idaho and Washington are also expected to be in attendance.

"I'm saying in the area of 300," Bastian said.

Snowmobilers should have plenty of room to roam. Trail grooming will begin about two weeks before the convention.

Bastian's wife, Lindy, is serving her second term as president of the Grant County Snowballers.

"There will be different trail rides for different abilities. It will be for everybody, hot dogs, family and kids," she said.

The Bastians are adamant about safety. Each trail will have a ride leader and they will only take 20 to 25 people per ride leader, they said.

"With winter sports you've gotta think of safety first," John Bastian said.

The Snowballers also have their own search and rescue trailer, filled with radios and rescue equipment.

Local motels, stores and gas stations should see an increase in business during convention week.

"We're sure it will help the local businesses at a time when business is usually slow," said Greg Jackson, owner of Jackson Oil Company.

"We are already booked up for that week," said Rakess Padel, manager of the Dreamer's Lodge in John Day.

"I think it will be great for the community, especially after the holidays," said Jeanette Newman, owner of the Squeeze-In Restaurant in John Day.

John Day Polaris will be available to make repairs and sell snowmobile clothing and accessories.

"I think it's a neat deal that they are having it here. It will bring more winter tourism," said Greg Haberly, owner of John Day Polaris.

Mike Miller, owner of Eastern Oregon Power Sports, has been selling Artic Cat snowmobiles for two years. He will also be available to make repairs and sell parts and accessories.

"We want to make everyone feel welcome. We have some of the best riding in the state. Once they ride here, they'll probably want to come back," Miller said.

On Jan. 14 the Grant County Snowballers will hold its annual sled-in at Huddleston Park. The event is open to everyone.

"We get special insurance for that day and we take the public for rides in the groomer. We go up to Huddleston Park and have a big potluck. Normally anytime of the year no one can ride in the groomer except OSSA members, sheriff's officers or forest personnel," John Bastian said.

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