Woodstock residents Janice King and Jennifer Campbell delivered a pointed message to council members Tuesday evening, Sept. 14, regarding last spring’s removal of barriers blocking motorized traffic from the Trans Canada Trail through the town.
Replace them "immediately," they said.
King, who requested the opportunity to address council, said she represented "all the walkers, joggers and bikers" who regularly use the trail, as well as residents who live near it.
She said that since the barriers came down this spring, riders on dirt bikes and wheelers have raced up and down the trail daily.
King's and Campbell's presentation to council is the latest volley in an ongoing debate surrounding the use of off-road vehicles along Woodstock's streets and trails.
Both women praised the work of a council-appointed ad hoc committee featuring Woodstock Police Chief Gary Forward, Planning and Development Director Andrew Garnett and Tourism Director Tobi Pirie. Still, they said trail users are at risk while final decisions are pending.
Council now has the ad hoc committee's report in hand as it works out the details for a pilot project which could provide off-road vehicles access to town streets. Local ATV groups and Quad NB lobbied the town to provide a means for off-road vehicle operators to reach local businesses, such as gas stations, restaurants and other services.
King and Campbell said regardless of council's decision related to town streets, the NB Trail must remain off-limits to motorized traffic.
King told council that few dirt-bike and wheeler drivers regularly using the trail show respect for walkers or joggers. While a few travel slowly, she said, others speed by, forcing people to scramble to ensure the safety of their children and pets.
King and Campbell both suggested the Trans Canada Trail, created solely for foot traffic, offers vast potential for Woodstock as a tourist attraction.
King said the walking trail offers a beautiful view of the St. John River.
"It could go hand in hand with the town's historic homes walking tour," she said.
Campbell suggested council look to other communities, such as Fredericton, which developed downtown walking trails as a tourist destination. She suggested possibly paving a portion of the trail, setting up picnic tables, benches and beautifying it.
Campbell submitted a detailed letter and her research results before Tuesday's meeting.
She joined King to summarize her written submission, which included suggestions of barriers safely used in other communities.
"These barriers can be designed so that only pedestrians, strollers and cyclists can access the trail, but they could be removed or swung open in the winter for the snowmobiles," she wrote.
Snowmobile clubs lease the trail during winter months, allowing legal use for sledders.
Campbell noted the town cited liability concerns when removing the barricades last spring. She asked who covers the liability for someone getting hurt or worse by a speeding motorbike or wheeler driver on the trail.
Deputy Mayor Amy Anderson and Coun. Mark Rogers both sought answers to the liability question.
"This is a major issue," said Rogers. "Should DNR (Department of Natural Resources) not have answers to that question?
Anderson asked Garnett, filling in for CAO Ken Anthony at Tuesday's meeting, if the town ever received clarification surrounding the gates.
"We can put them up, but we must assume liability," he said.
Mayor Art Slipp said council would address the gate issue at its Sept. 28 meeting.
King and Campbell both noted the town's pending pilot project to provide off-road vehicles access to town streets is a separate issue.
Campbell said she supports ATV access to town streets, while King said such access would not keep machines off the trail.
King said few illegal trail users' machines are licensed or insured, and riders have no interest in being members of ATV or Quad NB clubs.
During the discussion following the presentation, an emotional Coun. Randy Leonard strongly opposed giving off-road vehicles access to the trail or town streets.
Citing statistics about off-road vehicle ownership, including deaths and injuries, Leonard said he would never agree to allow the machines on town streets.
As a result of this stand, the councillor said, he has been harassed, slandered and threatened over the internet.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun