22 | Snowmobile VERMONT Bill & Mitzy Oakes Remembrances of Bill Oakes Celebration of Life Memorial, Aug. 8, 2012 There are few people in this world that can truly say they have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of people – by counting up the membership of VAST over the years, members of the International Snowmobile Congress as well as others he met and worked with in the snowmobile community. We have the trails that we have here in Vermont because of a great group of hard working people, and Bill was a part of that group. A favorite story was from a ride four to five years ago of about 100 miles. Bill was on his Arctic Cat and the trail conditions were a bit challenging, as they can be here in Vermont and Bill was keeping up. He was whipping around corners and going over moguls and as we stopped to have a donut, something you have to do if you are riding with a law enforcement individual. I asked, “Bill, are you doing ok?” “Yes, I am doing great,” came the reply. A couple of times we were moving along at a pretty good clip but Bill never had any trouble keeping up with us. We got to within a quarter mile of our final destination and Bill went to take a corner running at about one mile per hour and he tipped over crashing into a one inch thick maple tree. I think that was the slowest snowmobile crash in the history of Bill Oakes. He had just been on a 99.9 mile ride, never even tipped his sled ten degrees, but at the end of the ride he cleaned out a one-inch maple tree. – Bob Stebbins, Chittenden County Sheriff’s Deputy I’ve known Bill from the beginning, Bill was the father of VAST. It all started in Bill and Mitzy’s kitchen. In 1987, I was hired to be the trail coordinator and I asked him why he picked me. Bill said “the second guy who came in was wearing black patent leather shoes and you darn well know that he would not be working on trails very well with those on.” We went up on top of Mt Mansfield and when we were coming back one of our group broke a ski. What were we going to do? We were on the top of Mt. Mansfield and it was late at night. Bill pulls out his jackknife, cuts up a branch and lashes it to hold the ski together and we were heading down the hill in no time. Bill solved problems. – Wayne Pelkey, V AST Trails Coordinator 1987-1997 One night we were having a meeting, and someone came in and announced “good news -- some guy by the name of Bill Oakes on the other side of the state is proposing that all the clubs join together and we build a trail system that goes all the way north and south, east and west to cover the whole state.” We all got a good laugh and thought the man was crazy. Bill had the fortitude, audacity and strength to do it. Today we have a 4,700 mile trail system. We used to pay $2 for dues back then, Bill’s club I think was 10 cents. Today we pay a little more than that, but it is well worth it. I never got to ride with Bill until quite a few years later. One night I was at the VAST office complaining and Bill says “instead of complaining, get involved and change what you don’t like”. Here I am... Bill said he had a large collection of snowmobiles. I saw him one day with a snowmobile on his truck and he said he did not know what he was going to tell Mitzy when he got home. “Really?” I asked. Bill explained, “Because when I drop this one off I have to go back because I bought two of them.” – Ken Gammel, Caledonia County Director snowmobilers could ride if the sport was to survive. "They were in everybody's back yard and in everybody's front yard, and some people didn't want them in ANY yard," he recalls. The next few years brought often heated debate within VAST on where snowmobilers should ride and on the laws that were passed by the Vermont Legislature in the late 1960s and early 1970s to regulate snowmobiling. But throughout it all, Bill Oakes, who was VAST president from 1971 to 1973 fol­ lowing John Hall, says VAST members always aired things openly and direct­ ly. 'It wasn't under cover, it was all there. Everybody knew what other peo­ ple thought." By pulling together and hashing out their views, VAST survived the tur­ bulent years of the early 1970s, when many wanted a total ban on what one letter writer called snowmobiling "Hell's Angels." Today, VAST continues to fight for the sport amidst a very different set of challenges. But while times have changed, the passionate and dedicated leadership and involvement of Bill and Mitzi Oakes hasn’t, and the legacy of VAST is built upon their immense contributions.