2017-08-17 / News

Saco Pathfinders to halt lawnmower, kart racing

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


From left, Doug Doherty, Joshua Hill and Scott Cyr of the Saco Pathfinders Snowmobile Club. They hope to find more volunteers and fundraising opportunities in years to come. The club has suspended kart races indefinitely, but will hold a final lawn mower race of the summer on Friday, Aug. 25. All proceeds go toward snowmobile trail maintenance costs. For more information visit Saco Pathfinders on Facebook. (Grant McPherson photo) From left, Doug Doherty, Joshua Hill and Scott Cyr of the Saco Pathfinders Snowmobile Club. They hope to find more volunteers and fundraising opportunities in years to come. The club has suspended kart races indefinitely, but will hold a final lawn mower race of the summer on Friday, Aug. 25. All proceeds go toward snowmobile trail maintenance costs. For more information visit Saco Pathfinders on Facebook. (Grant McPherson photo) SACO – The Saco Pathfinders Snowmobile Club has suspended kart racing indefinitely in a time of financial uncertainty for the organization. The summer races were started by local farmer Rick Grant as a way to raise money for the club during the offseason. A memorial race was held Aug. 4 for Grant, who died of a heart attack in February.

The club board of directors voted to shut down the kart league after multiple verbal and physical confrontations between kart racers. There were four divisions of kart races at the Pathfinders Club: flathead, animal/clone, senior cage and junior cage. Club President Doug Doherty said the arguments got to a point where people needed to be separated. Tension exists between kart racers who may also compete against each other at larger venues such as Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough.


Rick Grant, who died of a heart attack in February, started the lawn mower races at the Saco Pathfinders Snowmobile Club as a way to raise money during the off season about 12 years ago. He was a local farmer who volunteered his time at the club after the harvest every year. His helmet and picture are still on display at the club. (Grant McPherson photo) Rick Grant, who died of a heart attack in February, started the lawn mower races at the Saco Pathfinders Snowmobile Club as a way to raise money during the off season about 12 years ago. He was a local farmer who volunteered his time at the club after the harvest every year. His helmet and picture are still on display at the club. (Grant McPherson photo) “We had a family fun atmosphere but some guys took it to an extreme,” Doherty said. “We lost a lot of people last year because of that.”

The summer racing series began with riding lawn mowers only and karts were added about six years ago. Club member Scott Cyr estimated attendance decreased by 60 percent after fights broke out. Aside from the loss of revenue, the club couldn’t maintain the volunteer presence necessary to keep races staffed.

“We did this to have fun and make money,” Cyr said. “We weren’t having fun anymore and the money has gone down because of the hostility out there.”

The attitude among mower racers is much more relaxed as opposed to kart racers, Doherty said, where competitors are much more willing to help each other out. One racer even brings extra mowers in case someone would like to try racing for the first time. If a mower rolls over during a race, a yellow flag is raised and the other mower drivers will stop racing until the problem is fixed.

“The mower guys are courteous, they all know each other and work well together,” Cyr said.

A final mower race of the summer will be held Friday, Aug. 25 at the Pathfinder’s Club on Heath Road in Saco. Club members will wait to see the turnout before deciding to continue mower races next summer. The cost to race is $20, which includes insurance, and admission is $5. All money raised goes toward the club’s winter maintenance expenses.

“We start in September and work all the way until the snow flies,” Cyr said. “Then we jump on our sleds and enjoy the trails.”

The club oversees 40 miles of trails that traverse Saco, Dayton, Scarborough and Biddeford. From there, snowmobilers can access the Maine Interconnected Trail System, which provides routes to New Hampshire, Quebec and New Brunswick. The club also has six grooming machines and five sleds it maintains and repairs.

For every trail mile the club services, for up to 30 miles, it receives a stipend of $145 per mile from the state. Doherty said the club made $4,350 this past year, which barely covers the cost of fuel to operate grooming machines during winter. Members often bring their own chainsaws and four-wheelers for fall trail clearing. Starting in September, club members will work from 8 a.m. to noon every Sunday to prepare the trails for winter.

“We cook burgers and fries afterward as a way to say thank you,” Doherty said.

Despite the work of the Pathfinder’s, all of the land the trails are on is privately owned. Permission to ride on the land has to be secured from every property owner, which can be difficult. Snowmobiling in the winter does little to no damage to the frozen ground, but many landowners still prefer to not have snowmobiles driving through their backyards.

“Once a landowner shuts down their property, it takes a piece out of the jigsaw puzzle,” Cyr said. “We either have to talk to somebody else or ask what it would take to open the land back up.”

Doherty said members have been lucky so far and have a good relationship with most property owners in the area. Doherty asks riders to be respectful and as quiet as possible. The club trails are also often used in winter by crosscountry skiers, fat-tire bikers and dog walkers.

“We enjoy making people happy, it’s why we take care of all the trails,” Cyr said.

Club members will typically allow anyone to park at the facility, but ask visitors to consider paying the $35 annual membership fee. Club members have considered several other fundraising opportunities such as selling Christmas trees or holding bean suppers. The clubhouse is also available to rent for family gatherings, but Doherty said he is welcome to new ideas. Finding volunteers is still the number one priority.

“It would be easy to walk away and ignore, but I have too much fun,” Doherty said.

For more information on upcoming events or how to join visit the Saco Pathfinders Snowmobile Club’s Facebook page.

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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