Hollis McRae, one of the original members to the North Shore ATV Club, sits atop a Yamaha Grizzly 700 SE being raffled off through the ATV Association of Nova Scotia. McRae has been riding for about 50 years, and enjoys being in the outdoors. Raissa Tetanish photo

The engines roared to life, and the riders were off.

It was the North Shore ATV Club’s annual open house, in celebration of 150 years of trail riding in Colchester County.

“We do this to promote the club, and promote getting people out on the trails,” said Tim Densmore, the president of the club that’s located out in Upper Kemptown. “A lot of people buy a machine and then don’t know what to do once they buy it. They’ll often cross people’s land. But with our trail systems, you’re good to go anyplace you want to go.”

The club, he said, maintains about 200 kilometres of trail, while working with two snowmobile clubs – Dalhousie Mountain and the North Shore Snowmobile Club – on shared trail. The North Shore’s trails, he said, are on the edges with the other two, so they often work together.

The club was formed about 20 years ago, starting with around eight or 10 members. It was originally formed and operated out of Warwick Mountain as the Nova Scotia ATV Mud Runners. The current club house was built about 15 years ago, and membership is up over 60 now.

Eighty-one-year-old Hollis McRae has been riding for five decades, and is one of the original members, putting numerous hours in to building the clubhouse.

“It’s a great thing,” he said of the club. “We all made it. I can’t remember who started it, we just needed it.”

“ATVs had a bad rap at the time,” added Densmore. “Now, it’s a family club too.”

“We try to run it right. We work with everybody, and the RCMP here. It’s a good thing. We need them,” said McRae.

Densmore said the main goal of the club is to have safe trails for riders to drive on. The trails are multi-use, with hikers and snowmobilers often taking advantage of the trail system. When maintenance is needed, club members pitch in for manual labour, and sometimes work gets done through grant money.

Once a month, the club hosts a fun run, posting information on its Facebook page, and the club will bring in safety instructors for courses. This past summer, 20 members – both ATV and side-by-side drivers – were certified over several courses.

During the open house, Colchester North MLA Karen Casey was on site, and told them they have her support for enhancing the sport in the province.

“In 2014, you came to me with a petition, which I took to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, and Municipal Affairs,” she said.

Part of the requirements for the club is riders having point-to-point access to locations. At this time, riders aren’t able to cross provincial roadways, which is something the club would like to see changed and they presented a petition to Casey in that regard.

“I know that’s a real issue for your members,” she said.

The province, Casey added, is looking at implementing a pilot project in the future where nine places in the province will allow point-to-point access.

“I know how important it is to you and how frustrating it can be to not have that point-to-point access. But I also know you don’t want to break the law.”

Colchester County councillor Wade Parker attended on behalf of Mayor Christine Blair. He spoke about the county providing about $52,000 in grants over the last few years.

“Myself, I do a lot of four wheeling and snowmobiling and these are some of the very best trails around,” Parker said. “I can leave from here and head any way I want. It’s a good trail system and you have it mapped very well.”