Maple Grove Township Fire department receives donation from Snowbirds

(From left to right): Dean Grossnickle, Kenneth Wilson, Brenda Reckow, Mary Bowling, Gary Bowling, Mark Coe and Larry Bowling. The Benzie and Manistee County Snowbirds club donated funds to the Maple Grove Township Fire department on Monday. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

(From left to right): Dean Grossnickle, Kenneth Wilson, Brenda Reckow, Mary Bowling, Gary Bowling, Mark Coe and Larry Bowling. The Benzie-Manistee County Snowbirds club donated funds to the Maple Grove Township Fire department on Monday. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MAPLE GROVE TWP. — Working together toward one goal, the Maple Grove Township Fire department and Benzie-Manistee County Snowbirds club are both dedicated to the safety of each snowmobile rider that hits the local trails.

The Snowbirds, which has been a part of the community for nearly 50 years, donated $2,000 to the fire department on Monday, aiding costs toward new equipment that could benefit both parties in various ways.

Lt. Gary Bowling, with the Maple Grove Township Fire department, said the funds will help buy an enclosed box trailer to use on rescues. The purchase will cost around $10,000.

“Our plan is to use this money with some matching funds with the township, and submit for revenue sharing with the Little River Casino Resort, to buy at least a 24 foot enclosed box trailer,” said Bowling. “With that, we are going to haul our Polaris Ranger ATV to use for rescues, in place of a snowmobile. We purchased an ATV because it will work in all four seasons.”

Bowling said the trailer will serve multiple purposes, hauling a wide-range of equipment that’s used year-round.

“We will haul the trailer behind our new rescue truck that we will pick up in a few weeks,” he said. “The trailer will also carry medical supplies, general firefighter rehab equipment, and other equipment used for search and rescues or ice/water rescues. Our hope is to outfit it with red lights, white scene lights on the side and possibly an on-board generator.”

When the rest of the funds are secured, Bowling said the trailer will be especially useful in the winter months during rescues.

“With this trailer, we can take more life-saving equipment and possibly add a heater to this unit,” he said. “When we do rescue someone, we can bring them into the trailer and rehabilitate them before the ambulance arrives.”

The Snowbirds were founded in 1968, and maintain 162 miles of snowmobile trails in Manistee, Benzie and Leelanau counties. It currently is made up of 160 members.

Snowbird club volunteers help to maintain the trails six days a week, smoothing out any bumps or imperfections in the snow for optimal safety.

Mark Coe, president of the Snowbirds, works with the fire department to host a snowmobile safety class, in which crew members teach rescue measures.

He said the Snowbirds are focused on community involvement; donating to the fire department was merely one step in its mission to ehance winter recreational safety.

“We want to be a good partner and keep people safe in the county,” Coe said. “We work with the Maple Grove Township Fire department because, in case of an accident, we want to be sure that people are safe on the trails, and (fire fighters) have the ability to do the proper type of rescue.”

The Snowbirds became an official nonprofit organization last year, and are honing in on fundraising efforts.

“We are now working to donate any excess funds to groups like Maple Grove Township Fire department,” Coe said. “All of our funding comes from the sale of the trail permits that go on the snowmobiles. We get a little bit from the state’s gas tax, and registrations of the snowmobiles. The majority is self-funded.”

Currently, Bowling said the fire department serves Maple Grove and Marilla townships. For the ten years he has been on the team, Bowling said numerous snowmobile rescues have been performed in the area.

“Most of the occasions we needed extra equipment,” he said. “We needed off-road equipment to haul the snowmobile back out and go into off-road conditions to rescue the folks.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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