March 12, 2017 6:42 pm
Updated: March 13, 2017 7:27 pm

“Devastating” fire destroys vital piece of snowmobile trail-grooming equipment near Kelowna

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It’s being described as a “devastating blow” to the Kelowna Snowmobiling Club.

A vital and expensive piece of trail-grooming equipment has been reduced to rubble in a fire.

To make matters worse, the club believes the fire was intentionally set on Saturday night.

“The loss to the club is devastating right now because of the cost of the machine and we are totally funded by memberships, everything is volunteer,” said groomer co-ordinator Rick Given.

The deep snow and smooth trails at Graystokes Park near Kelowna has been attracting snowmobiling enthusiasts for decades thanks in large part to volunteers who maintain the trails.

Given has volunteered 300 hours of his time this season maintaining more than 150 kilometers of the trail network.

It’s the largest groomed trail system in B.C.

“We’ve had a really good year this year with the grooming and the machine has ran really good. Our membership is happy, our membership is up, so everything is positive, and you get to a day like today, it’s pretty devastating,” Given said.

Snowmobilers enjoying the Sunday sunshine were disappointed to hear the news.

“We still got another good month of riding left. It would be nice to get to the bottom of who did it,” said Wayne Dudych.

“Right now is the best time of the year for sledding and the trails will be rough from here on in so it’s too bad people have to do stuff like this,” added Rod Romanow.

The club purchased the used Pistenbully 200 Edge groomer almost two years ago for $150,000.

Given says evidence suggests the groomer was intentionally set on fire.

“We’ve got broken glass from the side window here. There was a crescent wrench that was behind the seat and was leaning up against the blade. The cap is missing off that fuel tank so I’m going to assume that somebody took some fuel out of there and probably placed it in the cab and lit in on fire,” Given said.

While insurance should cover the costs, Given said it’s unlikely a replacement will come in time for the last month of the sledding season.

The trail network will remain open but snowmobilers are being urged to take extra precautions.

The Kelowna RCMP confirm vandals do appear to be the culprits.

Officers continue to investigate.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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