Should Two-Tier Snowmobiling Exist in Newfoundland?
By Andrew Goldsworthy
Earlier this week, I posted an article about the merits of investigating social enterprise options for the Newfoundland snowmobile scene. As I predicted, some folks got their back up against the wall and they didn’t see the point of my article. The intent was to simply pose the question whether or not social enterprise merits could be investigated further. And now, to really piss off the collective rigid amongst us, could Newfoundland explore a two-tier system within the existing NLSF model?
What exactly does two-tier mean? Just like healthcare, two-tier systems do exist in Canada. If you want to jump the line and get that MRI tomorrow, you can have it. But you’re going to pay for it. Your other option, you go into the general system and hope for the best. The general system right now is the product that the NLSF and their hardworking staff and volunteers are putting out there. Once again, I’m not looking to be negative but I’m simply looking to spark conversation about options that are out there, there are many models that exist. I applaud the hard work of those within our system, but they have to remember, they’re in the service sector.
Within the Haliburton region of Ontario, there exist a 100,000 acre track of land that is managed and maintained by the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve Ltd (HFWR). This region and organization have deep roots in the logging industry but HFWR founder, Peter Schleifenbaum, had the insight to envision a sustainable forestry operation and also pioneer a tourism side to the organization. In doing so, HFWR maintain approximately 300 KM of trails throughout the 100,000 acre facility. The destination provides accommodations, sled rentals and thoroughly caters to its users. They are 100% customer-centric. Here’s the interesting fact. This destination and the super well maintained trails are separate from the normal trail system. What does this mean…this is an example of a two-tier system that is not just existing, but thriving within Canada. Like up-grading your hotel room, if folks want a higher level of service, they’re willing to pay for it.
Could we test a two-tier system in Newfoundland? Why not…it would simply be a test. Lets say we selected a region where this could be tested within Newfoundland. For the sake of suggesting, I’m thinking this could be tested within the White River Road region (Cormack, NL). From an operational perspective, we’re talking about creating a second fee system for those that are high frequency users of this particular area. Those folks would still purchase their regular pass, but they would purchase an extra pass that covers this selected region. This test would also allow for testing of parking lot services, food services and even possible Backcountry Lodging. This is something we, as an industry need to understand, there’s nothing wrong with testing and trying. If we’re afraid to fail, lets just keep doing the same things. But don’t complain when you want change.
So now the magic question is, how much would this 2nd access pass cost? How/who would enforce it and would the value proposition be strong enough, meaning the quality of the trail/services easily warrant the extra cost to the users? Myself…it the pass gave me access to parking, I’m half sold now.
I’ll admit, the Social Enterprise model that I wrote about was far fetched but that’s what this entire exercise is about. This is an opinion based piece. If someone doesn’t like my opinion and/or my thoughts on these matters, tough shit, this is my article and go get your own.
So once again, not that I’m predicting the demise of the NLSF, which I’m not, but I’ve been accused of, I’m simply saying we need to investigate options. With regards to the Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve, I met the founder back at a Snowmobile Conference that we had here in Newfoundland (Central NF)…many great things came from that session. The key stakeholders came together and discussed solutions. Why have we not done things like that in recent years? To conclude, is this the saving grace for our industry…I have no ideal but I know it has positioned the Haliburton product as a leader within their market, so maybe we can learn something here.