Trent Hills is again being asked to grant all-terrain vehicles access to some of its roads to create a route that will allow ATV users to pass through the municipality and connect with other trails.
The request this time, however, came from a resident who doesn’t own an ATV and isn’t a member of the Northumberland District ATV Riders Club, which tried and failed three years ago to get a road use bylaw passed.
But members of the club, including president Mike Ainsworth, were present March 3 to show their support for Betty McCarrell when she appealed to a new council to open up certain roads to ATVs with a bylaw that would designate their location and deal with issues surrounding noise, speed, time of day and seasonal use, and trespassing.
The retired dairy farmer touted the many economic benefits that would come from allowing “a family-orientated activity” a wider ambit for its enjoyment, saying ATV riders would spend money on food, fuel and lodging during extended trips.
Thirty-eight municipalities in eastern Ontario allow ATVs on their roads, including all five neighbours of Trent Hills: Quinte West, Havelock-Belmont-Methuen, Stirling-Rawdon, and Cramahe Township.
McCarrell presented correspondence from several sources affirming the municipalities have had no problems with ATVs making use of their roads.
Stirling-Rawdon Police Chief Darrio Cecchin said his department has received “no significant concerns or complaints” about the operations of ATVs, adding ATV clubs “are educating their members well with respect to safety and following the rules of the trails.”
Cramahe Township Mayor Marc Coombs said his municipality has received only one complaint about an off-road vehicle since it passed a bylaw in 2009 allowing ATVs on roads north of Highway 401 “and that was about a dirt bike.”
Norwood real estate agent Todd McRobbie said he’s “not aware of any empirical evidence” that expanded ATV regulations “decrease property value.” In his experience they’ve been “a non-factor regarding real estate transactions."
McCarrell told council she had collected nearly 700 signatures on a petition in support of her request, including those of 34 businesses, who thanked her for taking on the challenge.
She read a letter from the owner of The Garden of Eatin’ in Warkworth, Karen Raymond, who wrote that council is “taking away a great deal” of business by not allowing ATV traffic to her restaurant.
McCarrell pointed out that ATV clubs will create, groom and police trails “at no cost to the municipality” and with its input.
As well, they do a great deal of work “to ensure public safety” through training sessions and educational materials that promote observance of the law and proper use of the machines by their owners.
Councillor Rosemary Kelleher-MacLennan praised McCarrell for having done her homework in putting together “a really great presentation” that gave council members “something to really think about.” Council voted to have a staff report prepared updating information that was compiled a few years ago in response to the initial request for an ATV road use bylaw.
McCarrell said in a later interview she was prompted to act after learning a farmer’s son had been fined $118 for riding an ATV on a municipal road between his house and a woodlot to get wood.
“I see the common sense and the rightness of it, for the businesses and the people,” to pass an ATV road use bylaw for a trial period, McCarrell said.
“What harm can be done?” she asked. “Let the feedback from the businesses and the public decide after that one year whether it should stay or not.”
The Northumberland District ATV Riders Club says “Trent Hills is an important link” in connecting its trails with those managed by the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance in an area that stretches from the Bay of Quinte to Algonquin Park.