While ATV season is coming to an end, Smiths Falls council has passed a bylaw to allow all-terrain vehicle users continued access to some municipal roadways within the town.
The riders will use the town roads as a connecting link to existing trails from the north and south limits of town, following the success of a two-year trial period.
The trial was set to end later this month, but as of the Nov. 22 council meeting, the continued ATV use has been approved on a permanent basis.
According to a report, provided during Monday night’s committee of the whole meeting by director of public works Paul McMunn, there haven't been any formal public complaints received by the town regarding the use of ATVs on municipal highways and other areas in the trail network.
As well, the Smiths Falls Police Service has confirmed there haven't been any complaints received or fines issued.
Rick Gilfillen, president of the Rideau Lakes ATV Club (RLATVC), requested the town amend the bylaw to allow ATV operators to use municipal streets to allow for home-to-trail use, for valid Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicles (OFATV) permit-holders.
"Our biggest received question during the pilot program was 'how do I get to the trail from my house?'" wrote Gilfillen in an email to the town earlier this month.
McMunn explained that the RLATVC is not looking to use arterial roads within the town but rather collector and local roadways which would permit access to the closest access point of the trail from home and back home again.
"I'm very supportive of this. I think it's been a great trial," said Coun. Christopher McGuire.
However, he said there was a safety issue at the old train bridge that has a gap where the rail tie ends and the bridge begins that needed to be addressed before the bylaw was passed, adding passing the motion should be paused until the bridge is repaired, with the cost of the repairs put onto the RLATVC.
He said the bridge has been brought up multiple times in respect to who the owner is and to safety issues.
Town CAO Malcolm Morris did not know who the owner of the structure is, but he will come back to the committee with the ownership at a later date.
Coun. Wendy Alford said the club has been very responsible and respectful throughout the trial, but she agreed with McGuire that the bridge should be taken care of before they proceed.
Coun. Niki Dwyer agreed that the bridge needs to be repaired but said: "I think to hinge their approval of making this arrangement permanent (on the matter) is unfair."
"I understand the concerns expressed for the safety; I don't think it's a deal-breaker," said Coun. Jay Brennan, adding that the home-to-trail provision is a good idea. "I think we should go ahead with this and then deal with that issue."
According to the report, the rules as outlined in Ontario Regulation 316/03 – Operation of Off‐Road Vehicles on Highways, would still apply, including holding a valid OFATV permit and Ontario Driver's Licence, being at least 16 years old, wearing a helmet, following the rules regarding passengers, and wear seatbelts when applicable.
As well, users would have to follow the speed requirements with a maximum speed of 20 km/hr on roadways with a posted speed of 50 km/hr, and follow the rules of the road also included in the regulation.
When the matter went from committee of the whole to the regular council meeting for a final vote, McGuire requested a recorded vote on the bylaw to authorize the trail access agreement because of the current safety concerns regarding the bridge. Council passed the bylaw was passed with a vote of four councilors in favour, two against and one absent.
(Jessica Munro is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times