Photo by Bob Mainhardt for the River News
Jennifer Kasparek leads a group of snowshoe enthusiasts who braved the cold to participate in the annual Snowshoe Hare Race Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 at Holiday Acres in Rhinelander. Proceeds from the event benefit the Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association.
1/14/2020 7:30:00 AM Snowshoe Hare Race raises funds for RASTA
Stephanie Kuski River News Features Reporter
Holiday Acres in Rhinelander hosted the sixth annual Snowshoe Hare Race to benefit the Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association (RASTA) on Jan. 11. Funds raised during the race will be donated to RASTA for trail maintenance.
RASTA was founded over 15 years ago by a group of local outdoor enthusiasts with the goal of maintaining and sustaining the cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, biking and hiking trail systems in Oneida County.
Now RASTA maintains many trail systems within the county, including the Washburn Silent Spring Sports Trails, Nose Lake trail systems, Cassian Cross-Country Ski Trail, Mud Lake trail systems and the Enterprise Fat Bike/Snowshoe Trail System.
In addition, RASTA helped fund and build the Judy Swank Perch Lake Shelter in 2010.
"RASTA is a 501C3-status group that maintains and develops silent sports trails throughout the Northwoods," RASTA Vice President Al Jozwiak explained. "It's all volunteer-driven, but we work with the county and city municipalities to maintain a lot of the stuff they can't afford to maintain in their budgets."
While the picturesque trails we're blessed with in the Northwoods are free for locals to use, they're not free to maintain.
RASTA relies heavily on memberships, volunteers, donations and fundraisers like the Snowshoe Hare Race to keep up with maintenance expenses, especially the equipment used for grooming during the winter.
In this way, the funds raised during the Snowshoe Hare Race on Saturday will benefit RASTA and go towards those trail maintenance costs.
"It's expensive to keep moving, but it's well worth it," RASTA Treasurer Ralph Solome said. "These fundraisers are huge."
Without fundraisers, Solome said, there wouldn't be any money for trail maintenance.
In addition to the Snowshoe Hare Race, RASTA also hosts two annual mountain bike races (one in the spring and one in the summer) in addition to various "share nights" at local businesses in order to raise money and awareness for RASTA.
"We do get a lot of community involvement, but we certainly would welcome more," Solome said. He also emphasized just how important volunteers are in helping keep the trails groomed and clear of debris at all times of the year.
Guy Hansen, one of the founders of RASTA, agreed.
"If we didn't have volunteers, it just wouldn't happen," Hansen said, noting that volunteers are vital for keeping the trails groomed, putting up bridges and walkways, color-coding the trail systems and generally keeping the trails in good shape.
In this way, volunteering contributes to developing a larger sense of community, he noted.
"If a volunteer helps one person, that person might be more likely to go out and help somebody else," Hansen said. "We have to be willing to do things we won't see the end result of. These trails aren't only for us, but for other people to use."
Volunteers like Peter Zambon, caretaker at Holiday Acres and volunteer for the Snowshoe Hare Race, make fundraisers like this possible. He worked to set up a special course for this event in which snowshoers of all skill levels can participate and have fun.
"It's not too hilly, but it also has a lot of twists and turns and some ups and downs. It goes through cedar swamps and hemlock forests, it's really a great variety of terrain," Zambon said. "We try to make everyone happy, whether you want to come out and just enjoy yourself or you want to go as fast as you can and push yourself to the limit."
Zambon said volunteering is an important way to get the community involved and raise money for a good cause.
"RASTA, in my opinion, is one of the largest assets our community has," Zambon said. "If it weren't for RASTA, we would only have a couple of trails within reach for an afternoon ride. Because of RASTA's hard work and all their volunteer efforts, we have a community trail system that is going to be sustainable and usable for decades to come."
Zambon said organizations like RASTA wouldn't be possible without community participation.
"Getting involved is really just about keeping it alive and helping this race continue to grow," Zambon said.
Volunteers and participants associated with RASTA and the Snowshoe Hare Race demonstrated great community involvement at all levels of this event.
Race director Sarah Reidinger said that with over 40 pre-registered participants, the race could see upwards of 90 participants.
"It's more than we've had in a very long time," she said.
Reidinger said the large number of participants this year might have to do with the range of participants the Snowshoe Hare Race attracted, since participants racing on Saturday may also be running as part of the Badger State Games, the Braveheart Series or hoping to qualify in the U.S. Snowshoe Association National Championship in Colorado.
For this reason, runners came from far and wide to participate in this race at Holiday Acres.
Race director and RASTA President Rich Reidinger said participants came from as far as the Twin Cities and even Canada to participate in the race.
Runners Michelle and Dick Lange came all the way from Colby, to participate in Saturday's race.
Dick Lange said there isn't an organization like RASTA in his area which maintains trail systems in the same way, so he comes to Rhinelander to enjoy the trails.
"We don't have as nice of a system as they have up here," he said. "It's really nice that they have an organization up here to maintain those trails because without those people, you wouldn't have any of these things."
Dick and his wife Michelle have been snowshoeing for several years, but this was their first race after a three-year hiatus.
The couple participated in the Snowshoe Hare Race at Holiday Acres some years ago and returned for another finish.
"We had started out because of the race and that's where we learned about RASTA," Michelle Lange said.
While some participants were snowshoe experts, others had never snowshoed before running the race Saturday.
Participants and volunteers enjoyed getting their blood pumping on a sunny Saturday morning as well as the opportunity to help raise money for a local cause.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce