Government funding cut puts Hay River Ski Club at risk

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The Hay River Ski Club (HRSC) is strapped for cash due to government budget cuts.

The club’s budget has been slashed by almost two-thirds, with the loss of about $ 33,000 per year from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs’ retail subsidy program, a five-year interim arrangement put in place after that. and other non-profits, were denied funding from Northwest Territories lotteries in 2014.

In a harsh assessment of the club’s finances, a December 12 press release states, “It is simply not possible for HRSC to raise funds for our annual operating budget besides being responsible for the maintenance of the club. trails and facilities and provide a wide variety of recreational and athletic programs. The very existence of HRSC is threatened.

The club’s future was in jeopardy with the loss of approximately $ 33,000 per year from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs Retailer Grant program, a five-year interim arrangement put in place after that, and others. nonprofits were turned down. funding of NWT Lotteries in 2014. Photo courtesy of HRSC

The club can survive this season and the next thanks to the Territorial Government’s NGO Stabilization Fund, but “after that the financial future of the ski club becomes very uncertain.”

MACA has rejected several club grant funding requests although an application “(Regional Youth Sports Events Program) was resubmitted and ultimately approved for a third of the amount requested. It is evident that submitting applications is one step, but receiving funds is another, ”he says.

The statement said MACA advised the ski club to appeal to the Town of Hay River and Cross Country NWT, its territorial sports organization, for funds, but “neither the town nor our TSO has made a commitment to provide financial support to the ski club and have re- directed us to the MACA.

“HRSC is caught in the middle, and no permanent source of funding from any level of government or agency has emerged,” he continues.

Trail Supervisor and Biathlon Coach Chuck Lirette, who has been involved with the club for about 18 years, said “the ski club is important to a lot of people in Hay River.” Photo courtesy of HRSC

At the club’s annual general meeting in 2021, members sanctioned fee increases of 50% for adults and 35% for families to fill some of the void left by declining government funding.

In addition, the club has partnered with the Hay River Golf Club to organize the “Chase the Ace” fundraiser.

BREAKER: the “important to many people in Hay River” ski club

Trails Supervisor and Biathlon Coach Chuck Lirette said he was “very surprised to see our funding completely cut and they have no plans to renew it.”

The club’s annual operating budget is around $ 50,000 per year, which covers everything to run the facility, from fuel to repairs and replacement of equipment, he said.

Electricity is one of the biggest expenses, as the club has about five kilometers of lighted trails, which can cost up to $ 12,000 per year.

Replacing the old lights with more energy efficient LEDs would save the club $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 a year in operating costs, Lirette said, but a GNWT grant to undertake the project was recently turned down “and we have tried with the city in terms of community. Improvement program to see if we can get the funding that would allow us to exchange the lights and we just recently learned that their finance committee is going to recommend that this be denied as well.

Despite the setbacks, Lirette said he appreciates the support he has received from MPs in Hay River, Rocky and RJ Simpson and the community at large.

After an initial plea for help, RJ Simpson received between 50 and 60 emails from affected residents asking MACA to reconsider the funding cut, said Lirette, who asks residents to email the MACA Minister Shane Thompson to express their support for the club.

“We really hope that our MPs and MACA Minister Thompson will agree to reverse this decision,” he said. “We estimated we had about 600 people on the trails at one point or another during the winter of last year. The ski club is important to many people in Hay River.

“I want to stress that we are a voluntary organization,” he continued. “No one receives a salary. This is just a group of people who put a lot of time and effort into delivering the ski club and programming to the people of Hay River and the North.

Involved in the club in one way or another for about 18 years, Lirette called it the “unofficial biathlon capital” of the North. “We have 16 lanes set up here, we just hosted the Polar Cup races this weekend.”

The Hay River Ski Club is the northern ‘unofficial biathlon capital’ with a 16-lane facility that recently hosted the Polar Cup races. Photo courtesy of HRSC

He also wanted to stress “that the Hay River Ski Club is more than just a ski club”.

“We tried to make it a family destination,” he said. “For example, we have a toboggan run, we have set up a picnic table and a fire pit that people can use, we have a cabin across the river which is a popular destination, we have set up bird feeders on one of our loops which people can go to.

It also has a multi-use trail called the Tigrou Trail where “you can go with boots, you can go with skis, you can go with snowshoes and you can take your dogs”.

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