Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Association (GRTSDA) president Warren Palfrey said it was a hard decision to make, however this year’s Sled Dog Mail Run is officially cancelled.
“It’s an ebb and flow in life and everybody’s life realities change,” he said.
“The reality is without a few key volunteers it’s quite impossible to run such a large event.”
He added each year, it takes more than 100 volunteers to run the Sled Dog Mail Run. Although many of the volunteers were willing to donate their time for specific areas of responsibility, Palfrey said with the key leadership position remaining empty, the event couldn’t go forward.
“Most of us that are intimately involved are still willing to do our part,” he said.
Historically the Sled Dog Mail Run, which is just one of the many events and activities organized through the GRTSDA , draws participants from all over the world. Initially established as a demonstration sport for the 1993 Northern B.C. Winter Games in Quesnel, the first mail run ran from Quesnel to Wells and Barkerville.
“The first five or six years it was also a race, a qualifier for the Iditarod, the 1,000-mile race through Alaska,” 40-year veteran musher Jeff Dinsdale said.
Dinsdale admitted he had mixed feelings about the cancellation of the 2013 dog sled mail run.
“I’m very sad there’ll be no mail run because its been an incredible event and I’ve received a number of communications from people involved sharing those feelings,” he said.
“But circumstances change and for whatever reason we haven’t the leadership coming up from the ranks.
“It’s the planning energy we’re lacking, we have lots of volunteers ready to help on the day.”
Dinsdale sits on the GRTSDA executive and has given his time in the leadership role several years over the past 20 years of the event, as have many others in the organization.
At the September meeting of the association the decision was made to cancel the event as no one had stepped forward to take that all-important leadership role.
Palfrey said the sled dog mail run is an important event for Quesnel and the North Cariboo.
“The mail run is a somewhat arms-length event that our association hosts but it could be separate from the association,” he said.
“It has generated a lot of economic uplift in Quesnel and hopefully it will be an event next year.”
Dinsdale agreed the event is important for the region and suggested local government needs to look at this as a major event and possibly get behind it to ensure its runs. He said an example of what’s needed is to hire someone like they do to organize and run the Winter Carnival.
“The association is not in a financial position to hire someone,” he said.
“The revenue we generate pays for the next year’s event. It’s also great publicity, including a national postage stamp and many media articles.”
He also cited examples of the popularity of the event including the uniqueness of the mail run.
“This is the only place in the world where it’s still possible to post a letter in a regular mail box then have it carried by a dog team, that’s what attracted me to it, the historical aspect, it’s part of our Canadian heritage,” Dinsdale said.
“We’ve had couples send out their wedding invites in the mail run envelopes, you can even buy old envelopes on Ebay.”
He said despite the cancellation, he’s been told there will be mushers coming anyway, even if there’s no mail run.
“I’ll be running my dogs somewhere that weekend, we’ll probably open up a trail towards Wells from Quesnel and once in Wells, it’s easy to get to Barkerville,” he said.
“Over the years we’ve had people do it on snowmobiles, skiis, running and even on a bicycle.
“We all value the memories and the mugs. Who knows what the future may hold.”
Palfrey also said last year is hopefully not the last mail run.
He added the association holds other events during the year and will post a schedule on their website of what they’re planning.