The Province of Ontario will provide a $3 million tourism development investment to support snowmobiling tourism for the 2011/12 season.

This investment will be administered through the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) to help boost the economic impact generated by OFSC snowmobile trails. According to the OFSC, these trails generate $1 billion annually.

The Honourable Michael Chan, Minister of Tourism & Culture, made the announcement recently at the Barrie Tourism Travel Information Centre as part of the ministry’s initiative to support attraction, product and experience development and industry capacity building.

“Our 34,000 kilometers (21,126 miles) of snowmobile trails, operated by our 228 community-based clubs, are an economic cornerstone of winter tourism in Ontario,” says Brenda Welsh, the volunteer president of the OFSC. “We are very pleased that this provincial investment will primarily benefit rural, small town and northern Ontario, where winter time opportunities are limited.”

This development investment is targeted to help remove winter tourism barriers. The OFSC says it will do so by improving infrastructure and technology to make it easier for more people to snowmobile more often in more places. Examples of eligible projects include bridges, culverts, signage, staging areas, tourism loops, and web and mobile information technologies. The funding will be allocated by the OFSC under clearly defined provincial eligibility guidelines and under strict OFSC criteria and oversight. Snowmobiling tourists will start noticing these enhancements to their Ontario riding experience throughout the coming season.

“It is important to understand that this investment is not for operational expenses, which run about $20 million each winter,” says OFSC Executive Director Paul Shaughnessy. “Operational costs are paid by the sales of trail permits, but permit revenues are not sufficient to cover the infrastructure and technology advances need[ed] to build winter tourism. This is an investment in protecting snowmobiling’s significant contribution to Ontario’s winter tourism economy.

The OFSC reminds snowmobilers that this provincial investment does not pay for any trail operational costs incurred by the clubs and districts to keep trails open and groomed.

“[S]o it is very important for riders to continue to support trail operations by buying a 2012 trail permit,” the OFSC says in a release.