Creation of Rideau Lakes ATV Club links region for outdoor enthusiasts
Nicki and Rick Gilfillen are the president and vice-president of the newly formed Rideau Lakes ATV Club. They are currently in the planning stages of developing a trail system through the township. They will be meeting with local councils shortly to request access to local roads to link their trail system.
UPDATE: The Rideau Lakes ATV Club has recently confirmed with the Record News that they will be speaking with Elizabethtown-Kitley Township on the potential use of one road on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. The township meeting starts at 7 p.m. inside Council chambers ( 6544 New Dublin Road). All council meetings are open to the public.
In the future, when Nicki Gilfillen, president of the Rideau Lakes ATV Club (RLATVC) says she’s going for a day trip to Rockland she may not be taking a car.
The Aug. 31 incorporation of the RLATVC as a registered not-for-profit organization effectively connected six individual clubs from Gananoque to Rockland, Ontario by a series of ATV trails. This ability is, in part, a fulfillment of the Ontario Federation of ATV Club’s (OFATV) goal to be able to ride across the province. The OFATV did approach the community in 2010 to see if there was interest in opening such a club.
“It’s a long time coming,” added Gilfillen. “They really needed us to get a club so you can ride from Gananoque to the Ottawa Valley. We can start at home and end at home.”
In the past, the Gilfillens have had to trailer their ATV to an approved trail before they could ride, but their hope is the new club with the help of community support will change that. The new RLATVC borders three existing clubs within District One, and has only just begun its work. Currently, Gilfillen is pulling together local landowners who are willing to allow them to use the back of their property for ATV use. The aim is to connect all existing ATV trails to each other through Rideau Lakes trails. This local system could one day include access into the communities of Delta and Portland.
To date, the club is working on their spring trail system and is compiling a list of roads needed for use. They will present to the Township of Elizabethtown-Kitley on Oct. 14 with hopes of receiving approval to use three township roads for ATV use.
Once the club has their mapping in place and their roads needs confirmed, they plan to return to Rideau Lakes Township Council to ask for approval under its existing 2007 bylaw that allows limited access to off-road vehicles at the council’s discretion. A date for this delegation has yet to be made.
“We’re working on that,” said Rick Gilfillen, vice-president.
The couple has been speaking with Rideau Lakes Mayor Ron Holman to provide and share information in preparation for their return to council. Nicki made her first delegation Aug. 10 when she was asked to return with mapping and road needs information.
Holman welcomes the introduction of the new club, saying their emergence is exactly what council of the day had envisioned eight years ago.
“This is really a fulfillment of what we had originally hoped for,” the mayor said.
This week, Rideau Lakes Coun. Bob Lavoie of North Crosby ward put forward a motion that will permit the use of off-road vehicles on highways within the municipality with the following exceptions: their use is prohibited from dusk to dawn and are not allowed within the core areas of villages, hamlets, residential subdivisions and other sensitive or unsafe areas as determined by council. The motion was tabled for first and second reading this week. It will not come back for discussion for another month to allow the public to provide feedback.
“It’s a big step,” Holman said.
The club would ideally like to connect its trails via agreements with landowners rather than use roads, but understand this will take time. Rick wants landowners to know ATV users are very respectful individuals who will stay to the fence line and not harm their usable yard.
“We don’t want the best part of the property, we want the stuff they’re not using,” he said.
The Gilfillens have recently launched a club website (www.rlatvc.org) and have a presence on Facebook where they have so far accumulated about 10 members. The Gilfillens welcome all new members to their club, saying their goal is to create a safe, family-friendly environment that will encourage residents to get out into nature while welcoming tourists to the area. Membership is $150 a year. All members must carry a license and insurance to receive a pass.
The Gilfillens got involved in ATVing about 10 years ago out of a desire to get back to nature and spend quality time with their then young children. Last weekend was their most recent family excursion when they took part in the annual harvest rally by the Nation Valley ATV Club. Rick said the family saw many wild animals in their natural habitat, as well as historic bridges and farmers working in their fields.
“It’s not too often you get to be in the back of someone’s property and see them work,” he said.
The terrain of the township makes the region a natural draw for ATV enthusiasts of all levels.
“It’s prime ATV land,” Rick added. “You get a difference of farm land to bush.”
The couple aim to have beginner trails up and going by next spring with elite and winter trails to be developed in the coming years. With each new addition, the Gilfillens feel the ATV club will draw more and more enthusiasts to the area who will be looking for a good place to eat and fill their gas tanks.
“It’s putting money back in our own community,” Nicki said.
The couple hopes to some day host local rallies where they would welcome OFATV members to the community for a day-long ride through the trails. A distant objective is to enhance this offering to include overnight events where camping would be added.
The Gilfillens are currently working with Smith’s Equipment Centre to create a local rally that would begin and end at their Highway 15 site. Not only will the event highlight the supportive local business, but the Gilfillens hope it will increase public awareness of their club.
“Our trail head is going to start in their backyard,” Rick said.
The local business has also agreed to sell the club’s trail day passes. Proceeds from this inaugural event will be going to a local charity that has yet to be determined.
The RLATVC wants to be an active member of the community. On Sept. 19 they volunteered to help out with the inaugural Rise Above the Mud Run at the Siloki Centre, which was a fundraiser for the Smiths Falls Community Hospital Foundation.
For more information and updates on the new club, please go to their website noted above.