Donna Barnett was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the B.C. Snowmobile Federation this fall.
The award, which includes a lifetime membership in the BCSF, was given to the longtime 100 Mile House community volunteer and politician to recognize the work she has done to promote and advocate for snowmobiling. Barnett said she was surprised but honoured to receive the recognition.
“I got a phone call last spring about it and there was a meeting I was supposed to go to but I couldn’t get out to it. I knew something was in the wind but then I saw the fall edition of Mountain Sledder (with an article about me) and that’s when I found out about it,” Barnett said. “It was kind of a shock but it’s a great honour.”
BCSF president Peter Doyle said he has known Barnett for years and was good friends with her husband, Jack. Doyle said life achievement awards are typically only given out to past presidents of the federation.
“There’s just a few individuals who have not been presidents who get a lifetime membership. As a volunteer Donna has, for years, promoted snowmobiling,” Doyle said.
Along with her husband Jack, Barnett first got involved with snowmobiles in 1967. The couple went on to help found the first 100 Mile Snowmobile Club in 1969 with other community volunteers, hosted races, and built the 100 Mile Snowmobile Club lodge which still is in use at the end of Ainsworth Road.
“We sent a fellow named Jimmy Keller who knew every nook and cranny in the land and they found 33 acres (near Ainsworth Road). We built the track and built a clubhouse of sorts, held two major snowmobile races up there and we had the best track in B.C.,” Barnett said. “It wasn’t just me and my husband, it was a group of people with a vision for the future.”
As the club began to grow Barnett realized they didn’t technically have a legal right to the property and approached their MLA Alex Fraser for help. The government at the time gave them the option to lease the land for $50 a year or buy it outright for $750.
Barnett said they chose to purchase the land in 1972 so the land could be utilized by snowmobilers, motocross riders and other user groups.
Her husband Jack eventually came up with the vision of creating a snowmobile trail that stretched from Clinton to Barkerville. This eventually became the Gold Rush Trail a project that Barnett and Jack worked on together to complete and later passed on to BCSF clubs along the trail.
Doyle said that even when Barnett entered politics, first as mayor of 100 Mile House and later as MLA of the Cariboo-Chilcotin, she continued to advocate for outdoor recreation. Barnett said she did everything she could to secure government funding for snowmobilers and worked to change legislation in their favour.
“All in all I’ve been a real promoter of the sport,” Barnett said. “When times were tough around here it brought economic and social benefit to our region big time.”
These days Barnett said she’s sold her sleds and doesn’t go out snowmobiling on her own. However, whenever anyone offers her a vehicle to take out for a spin she’s ready to “go riding any day.”