At their council meeting on June 21, Limerick Township council heard a delegation from Darren Stevens, the president of the Coe Hill Riders ATV Club, about enacting a land use agreement with Limerick Township for ATV riders with permits in the area to use the ATV trails in Limerick in exchange for insurance coverage and maintenance provided by the CHATVC. With some minor amendments, council voted to proceed with this land use agreement and to eventually pass a bylaw granting ATV riders with permits from other ATV clubs’ permission to ride these trails without facing fines from the OPP.
Mayor Carl Stefanski welcomed Stevens to the meeting and invited him to go ahead with his presentation. Stevens started off by speaking a bit about his club; how it was established in May, 2018 as a non-profit incorporated organization and is a member of the Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicles. Operated by volunteers, the club now has 248 members, 131 members having signed up since the beginning of May. They have mapped almost 600 kilometres of trails, which are shown on the Quad ON app (available on Apple and Google Play), and these trails are all legally accessible by ATVs.
In addition, all their organized club rides benefit local charities and they’ve raised over $5,000 so far for organizations like the Coe Hill Food Bank, the local Fire Department, The Canadian Cancer Society and The Wollaston Library.
Stevens told council that ATV permits are purchased from the OFATV online and only for a specific club and that a portion of the proceeds from these permit sales goes to the local club to maintain the trails they’ve signed agreements for.
“The club then has revenues to cover costs for its overall operations, insurance and for trail signage and maintenance,” he says.
Stevens said the reason he was there to talk to the council that day was about signing a land use agreement with OFATV, with CHATVC as the local club assigned to maintain the Limerick owned section of the railbed (trails) from Old Hastings Road to Hwy 62.
According to Stevens, Wollaston Township had signed a similar agreement with CHATVC in 2019; a non-exclusive land use agreement covering the township owned multi-use railbed from Wollaston Lake Road to Old Hastings Road. With this agreement, the CHATVC offered $15 million in liability insurance and signs and maintains the trails, all at no cost to the township. The insurance was applicable to all vehicles who may have an accident on the trails, not just ATVs.
“As of 2020 and to date, we’ve spent more than $5,000 and many volunteer hours to maintain these trails, at no cost to the township for maintenance,” he says.
Stevens said the non-exclusive facet to this agreement was at Wollaston’s request, meaning that any ATV trails permit could be used on their trails, not just those issued by OFATV. Stevens said they typically allow only OFATV permits on trails they look after; however, they went along with this as they see the economic benefit of promoting tourism in Wollaston by allowing these other ATV trail permits on the trails. He said they would do the same in Limerick, as the key point was that ATV permits were require to use ATV trails.
“ATV trail permits allow the local clubs to collect revenues to insure and maintain the trails and the township does not have to use taxpayer dollars to insure and maintain those trails,” he says.
Stevens also mentioned that he’d provided a copy of the Wollaston land use agreement and a brochure for the CHATVC, which was included in the meeting agenda for council’s information.
At that point, Stevens asked if there were any questions from council.
Stefanski had a comment about the Wollaston agreement being for five years, from 2019 to 2024, and suggested it might be more appropriate for Limerick to sign off on a two-year term. He also had a query about the amount of coverage stipulated in the Wollaston land use agreement for $10 million. Stevens assured council that the amount was actually $15 million, and that the $10 million figure was a typo. He explained that because OFATV only does ATVs, not dirt bikes or horses, etc. that some of the other trail organizations like EOTA do, their premiums were lower, so they were able to secure a larger amount of coverage from their provider, Oasis Insurance.
Councillor Kim Carson had a question about snowmobiles using the trails in the winter, and how that may conflict with any ATV use in the winter months. Stevens said that under their administration, the trails are closed to ATV use from approximately November 1 to May 1, to allow snowmobiles to use those trails unfettered for those months. The exception would be for any resident that uses an ATV to access their property on the trail.
“It’s just kind of give and take. We have a fairly long season with the ATVs, the snowmobiles don’t. It’s just easier in my opinion to work together than it is to push and pull,” he says.
Stevens also urged Limerick to do what Wollaston had done and pass a bylaw recognizing the permits from all four organizations on OFATV trails so riders don’t get fined by the OPP for riding with a permit that’s not OFATV issued. He also said he would get in touch with the OPP to ask them to refrain from issuing any fines to ATV riders on the Limerick trails until Limerick does get the bylaw passed.
Carson asked if they should do the bylaw first and then the insurance coverage, to which Stevens suggested getting the insurance in place first, as it would cover them from any potential liability, and then passing the bylaw.
Councillor Jan MacKillican thought it didn’t make sense to insure something where you’re not clear on what the deal is yet, and suggested implementing both at the same time. Stevens replied that the bylaw was a different piece and that they have municipal insurance on that trail, so if an accident happens, they’re sued and it’s on their insurance.
“All we’re doing is saying let that come to us and that’s $15 million which should get you out of trouble. Creating the bylaw after can be done fairly easily and you can even copy and paste other townships’ bylaw like Wollaston. Doing the land use agreement is an agreement for us to put that trail as an OFATV trail and to maintain it. We’re not allowed to maintain it without insuring it. We can’t take responsibility for the condition of the trail unless we insure it,” he says.
Stefanski recommended to council that they send an abstract of Steven’s delegation and a copy of the land use agreement to the township’s lawyers to have it looked at and make sure that everything was in order. However, with only a maximum of five kilometres of trails in question, Councillor Ingo Weise thought that sending it to their lawyer was unnecessary and was prepared to agree to it at that point.
Stefanski conceded it was only a recommendation and asked for someone to make a motion to accept the land use agreement with the CHATVC with some minor revisions, like the proper amount of insurance coverage of $15 million being in place within the agreement, and a two year instead of five year term. This was moved by Weise, seconded by Locke and carried by the council.
Stefanski thanked Stevens for his presentation, saying it was very informative and said they’d be in touch if they had any further questions. Council then moved on with other business.
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times