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November 16, 2015

'Covered Bridge Challenge' Enables NY Snowmobilers to Safely Explore New Destinations

Utica -- Whether it's due to the joy of riding through a covered bridge on a snowmobile, or the pleasure of planning a winter escape to a new destination, avid riders across the northeast are busy preparing for the first annual Covered Bridge Challenge. A collaborative effort among several of the state's snowmobile clubs, tourism offices and Mohawk Valley GIS, creators of the NYSnowmobileWebmap promotional website, the challenge offers a fun way to explore new areas of the state on a sled.

The Square Valley Trail Blazer Club's covered bridge in Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area near Parish is one of the destinations on the Covered Bridge Challenge. The entire challenge route is an impressive 663 miles, traversing ten covered bridges and spanning 14 counties.

The Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning works closely with the tensnowmobile clubs in the county on the trail grooming and reimbursement program.

"Snowmobiling is vital to Oswego County's winter tourism industry," said Dave Turner, director of the county Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning. "We have an outstanding network of business partners across the county who serve snowmobilers throughout the season, and volunteer members of our snowmobile clubs do a great job of maintaining and grooming more than 400 miles of snowmobile trails for their enjoyment."

The Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning sponsors theinteractive snowmobile mapping system created by Mohawk Valley GIS.

"The Covered Bridge Challenge is a perfect fit for our trails network," said Turner. "We've had more than 10,000 users download the Oswego County snowmobile trail app that was created by Mohawk Valley GIS since we began sponsoring it two years ago, and we know that it's generating a lot of interest in our trail system.The service is satellite-based, so cell phone service is not required."

Built in late 1994, the Square Valley Trail Blazer Club's covered bridge is just north of OS-201 (S-51 and C5) as riders head north to Happy Valley, and can also be accessed on C5 between St. Rt. 69 and Co. Rt. 26. The bridge is 12 feet, 6 inches wide and 26 feet long, and during the snowmobile season is festooned with lights for the club's annual torch parade. The trail system covers several miles through scenic hardwood forests in Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area.

The Covered Bridge Challenge was originated by users of the NYSnowmobileWebmap.com interactive trail map "Route Planner." Much like on Google Maps, users can create and share their own routes.

Each covered bridge location offers participants a reason to explore the region. Orleans County riders travel along an old Erie Canal towpath and ride under a tunnel described as "the only tunnel going under the canal," by "Ripley's Believe It Or Not." Other bridges include the Hojnowski Memorial Bridge and a bridge constructed from an old truck in Wyoming County, the Boonville covered bridge, and bridges in Oneida and Herkimer counties, ending in Old Forge.

"Like everything we do at Mohawk Valley GIS," said owner Linda Rockwood, "we took this a step further. Riders could save routes to their own personal accounts, or actually share their custom-designed routes as public routes." Riders have created more than 13,400 routes. Many also watched a simple how-to video and learned how to import these routes directly into their premium statewide, no-reception-needed smartphone app or their GPS receiver, to then follow on the trails.

"We know the group from Buffalo used our interactive map to plan, and phone app to ride, the entire route," continued Rockwood. "The idea for the Covered Bridge Challenge was born. We needed a fun, competitive way to teach others how to use these mapping tools. Not only does it make riding more convenient, riders will know where they are, exactly, on the trail. They will know where the next gas station, or a hot meal, is located too. Riders are free to travel further, without worrying about getting lost. And best of all, kids can share pre-planned routes with their parents."

Riders submitted dozens of bridge suggestions, from which ten locations were chosen. The Covered Bridge Challenge route can be viewed by visiting the interactive map and using the Route Planner tool, found on the left hand side of the map, found at www.NYSnowmobileWebMap.com. Helpful "how-to" videos are available as well.

To enter the Covered Bridge Challenge, visit www.CoveredBridgeChallenge.com. Riders should visit each of ten locations during the 2015-16 snowmobile season and take a photo of themselves and their sleds with the bridge visible in the background. Others may be included in the photo.

Photos of all ten locations must be posted on www.NYSnowmobileWebMap.com no later than April 15, 2016. Riders earn their own Covered Bridge Challenge decal. Families are encouraged to participate; each child 12 and under completing the challenge earns their own decal.

Snowmobilers are encouraged to share their experience and their questions on public forums, such as Facebook, Twitter, and at club meetings. They are also invited to let local businesses know why they are in town. As always, responsible riding is encouraged.

For further information on the Covered Bridge Challenge, contact Cathy Light, at (518) 605-3668, or cathy@mohawkvalleygis.com or write to The Covered Bridge Challenge, Mohawk Valley GIS, 114 Genesee St., Utica, NY 13502.

For Oswego County visitor information go to www.visitoswegocounty.com. For snowmobiling information go to http://www.visitoswegocounty.com/snowmobile/.

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