It didn’t take long for Trekkit TV’s third season, this time focusing on 15 days of travelling 2,500 kilometres of New Brunswick off-road trail system, to reach a gap in the system.
On Sunday, Aug. 15, Trekkit producer Ryan Groom and his crew launched Day 2, not by jumping on their machines and hitting the trail system through Carleton and Victoria counties, but by getting a lift for themselves and machines through Woodstock, across the St. John River to Carr Siding, deep in the backroads beyond Newburg.
The portage of sorts came thanks to the help of the Skedaddle Ridge ATV Club, River Valley ATV Club and Quad NB. The group met the Trekkit team at Murray’s Irving on Beardsley Road, and with the help of the Skedaddle Ridge trailer, transported the group of five and their machines to Carr Siding.
Woodstock off-road enthusiast Bob Stokes, who was part of the group helping the Trekkit crew from Beardsley Road to Carr Siding, said the detour proved longer than usual because of a trail washout near Pembroke.
He said the province has not yet repaired a culvert washout on the trail not far from the Pembroke Hall.
Groom said after Day 1, which began in St. Stephan and featured an ATV breakdown and other problems, the group looked forward to a second day travelling through the Skedaddle Ridge trails and viewing the sites as they headed north to Arthurette.
Groom expressed appreciation to the Skedaddle Ridge crew and others who help them travel through Woodstock and reconnect with the trail system.
He said the only other option would be to wait until the middle of the night and seek through town.
“We didn’t want to portray that image,” Groom said.
The Trekkit producer explained this is the third season for his current show, but they’ve been doing adventures since 2012, hitting such countries and Iceland, Scotland, Norway and places in Canada and the United States.
Groom said they decided to turn their focus on something which showcases New Brunswick in a special way.
“In 2017, we had a special on CBC called ‘Maritimes from Above,’ where we used a drone to show unique places in the Maritimes, but there are a lot of unique places you can get to by ATV. So, I convinced these guys, who never owned an ATV in their life, to buy a brand new ATV and follow me out into the woods and see how it goes.”
He explained Season 1’s Trekkit was about new experiences. He said COVID-19 hampered many Season 2 plans.
For Season 3, Groom said he approached a person at Bell, who agreed to help them find sponsors and support a series highlighting places and adventures as they travelled the New Brunswick trail system.
“Season 3 was, like, COVID’s over, we have to do something that really puts New Brunswick on the map,” he said.
Part of Groom’s plan is to promote ATVing and demonstrate the vast economic potential the sport offers.
He believes New Brunswick could offer a similar experience Newfoundland and Labrador offer. Visitors can drive their machines on the ferry, travel a well-mapped trail system through the province and return to the ferry.
“Towns all accept you driving through,” he said. “We need to do that in New Brunswick.”
As much as the Newfoundland experience offers, Groom said the model he’d like to see New Brunswick follow comes from West Virginia.
He explained eight communities ask the state, which faces similar economic challenges as New Brunswick, to allow the use of off-road trails which connect them.
“Everyone of those trails has branding, swag, and places to stay,” Groom said.
He said tourists arrive from everywhere to use the trail system. He said more communities are looking to join the program.
Groom said many New Brunswick communities already support off-road tourism, noting 15 municipalities allow ATVers to ride into town to find gas, food or lodging.
He said gaps like the one experienced in Woodstock serve as a roadblock to an interconnecting trail system.
Groom said off-roaders could start in St. Stephen and drive straight through to Bathurst, except for the gap in Woodstock.
“We really need Woodstock to connect the north and south,” he said.
Vance Johnson of Quad NB, who was among those helping the Trekkit team travel through Woodstock, shares Groom’s vision.
He and Groom each cited the old washed-out train bridge in Upper Woodstock as an ideal means to connect both sides of the St. John River.
Johnson said off-road travellers lack any means to cross the river legally.
He said the reconnected bridge in Woodstock could benefit walkers, bikers, snowmobilers, as well as ATVs and side-by-sides.
Johnson hopes to see the town and province address the gap in the system to expand the tourist potential.
Woodstock council and staff are currently addressing the issue of motorized vehicles on town trails and streets. Last year, the town created an ad-hoc committee featuring Woodstock Police Force Chief Gary Forward, Development and Planning Director Andrew Garnett, and Tourism Director Tobi Pirie to study the issue. After extensive consultation, the committee created a report and presented it to Mayor Art Slipp and council members.
Council is currently studying the report and will develop a pilot project to address concerns.
At its Tuesday, April 24, meeting, Woodstock council took the next step to address potential access to off-road vehicles to town streets or trails. Council approved the draft of a pamphlet to be distributed to town residents, explaining its options, including identifying some town streets which could be opened to ATV and Quad drivers.
Mayor Art Slipp urged residents to review the pamphlets, adding the town most likely will host another public forum.
Despite the gap at Woodstock, the Trekkit crew, with Woodstock videographer Ben Cummings on hand to record their adventures and showcase Skedaddle Ridge landmarks, such as Chimney Rock and Ayres Lake, headed north on Aug. 15, from Carr Landing.
The team planned to continue across the province for 13 more days before ending Aug. 28, in St. Stephen. Trekkit Season 3 can be viewed on Bell TV1 video on-demand service.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun