By Brian Ross
2018 is a very special year for the Lee River Snow Riders (LRSR) ─ it’s the club’s 30th anniversary. To say the club began from humble beginnings would be an understatement.
The club started after a meeting in a rec room!
“Alf Jarvis and Lionel Roberts began talking about forming a snowmobile club,” remembers former president Rudi Gretschman. “He had been talking to some folks about snowmobile clubs. None of us really knew too much about it, but we got together and it just went from there.”
The meeting was hosted by Roberts, who at the time was the owner of the popular ‘Camp Hideaway’ which was located on Lee River. The meeting consisted of several dozen individuals who were hardcore snowmobile enthusiasts whose goal was to improve snowmobiling in the Lee River/Bird River area (north of Lac du Bonnet). Formation of the club would provide funding for infrastructure projects such as trail clearing, purchasing of much-needed equipment and other expenses incurred from running a snowmobile club.
It was decided that Jarvis would be the club’s first president, while Steve Czamecki (treasurer) and Rose Gretschman (secretary) would round out the executive. Original directors were Ron Smith, Ken Horn, Steve Raduy, Barry Richardson and Lionel Roberts.
“The club was formed around January as I recall,” said Gretschman, who was vice-president of the original executive. “I had been racing sleds quite a bit and didn’t really have time to be president of the club. But I was stepping away from racing so I was voted in as second president. It was a lot of work in those days, breaking new trails and developing the trail system.”
Horn, who was the club’s third president, fondly remembers the early days of the club, highlighted by members putting up their own money to purchase the first, large-track groomer.
“What you see today (trail system/signage/safety) is dramatically different from the early days,” he says. “We worked like heck, but we also had a heck of a lot of fun, too.”
As Horn remembers, early membership numbers were nearly 120. As years went by warm-up huts were named in honour of the original LRSR directors. The club’s logo was designed by an artist from the University of Manitoba, who was approached by club member Kathy Richardson.
The club’s first two groomers were Lynx sleds which pulled small drags. Not too many years later the club traded in the sleds to purchase a bigger, used track groomer.
“When it came time to purchase a new groomer, a lot of the original members gave money for the down payment,” remembers Horn. “Many of those people never asked for their money back. It was a really generous thing to do. That’s how our club progressed.
“In those days equipment was kept in people’s yards,” says Horn. “In the early ‘90s, the RM of Alexander generously donated a piece of land which is where our groomer shed now stands.”
Club honours early executive members
Rudi’s Hut was the first warm-up hut built (1988). This popular meeting place is located in Hay Bay and was named after Gretschman. Likewise Alf’s Hut, which was actually part of the Lac du Bonnet club’s trail system. In fact, that location was originally called “Mickey Junction” for all the discarded mickey bottles which were left hanging on tree branches by numerous party types.
After discussions between the two clubs, it was determined Alf’s Hut/trails would be part of the LRSR system.
The current Alf’s Hut was actually one of several constructed on the site; including one hut which was burned to the ground by vandals in 1998. (Note: Alf Jarvis has since passed away but continues to be fondly remembered.)
Rose’s Hut was named in honour of Gretschman’s wife, while Joyce’s Hut and Trail were named in honour of Joyce Tumak, whose husband Joe (and family) spent considerable time developing the trail and constructing the hut.
Anson Hut is named after Anson Lake, a small body of water near the hut. Steve’s Trail was named in honour of original executive member Steve Czamecki. Reder Trail (from King’s Hut to Rose’s Hut) is named in honour of former director Don Reder, who oversaw the project of pushing trail through that area. Lionel’s Trail was named in honour of Lionel Roberts.
Over the years, hundreds of dedicated volunteers have given their time to improve the club for the betterment of snowmobiling within the Lee River/Bird River region. And volunteers continue to be an invaluable resource for the LRSR……from clearing the trail of fallen trees, to putting down reflective sticks on the trails.
Moving forward, the LRSR now boasts a membership of nearly 300 family memberships. There’s an 11-person executive, newly expanded groomer shed which houses two groomers and drags, including all the equipment needed to safely maintain the club’s trail system.
“From our executive to volunteers, we all take great pride in our club,” says current LRSR President Brad Wall, who is the 12th president in the history of the club.
“We have so much respect for those people who formed and developed this club. We still hear from Rudi and Ken is currently a director. We also hear from original members who still attend our AGM. Their feedback is heard and respected. Everyone’s goal is to enhance the snowmobile experience within our area.”
The groomer shed, which was built in 2000, continues to be hub of activity. It’s not unusual to see past president Derek Roy jumping in a groomer and hitting the trails, or repairing a drag; he’s also the club expert regarding the constitution.
The LRSR owe much to its pioneers; too many to name. Thank you! Here’s to the next 30 years.