County roads committee sounds off on off-roaders putting rubber to pavement

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Off-roading enthusiasts will have to wait until at least September to get a better idea for where the county is heading with a decision on whether off-road vehicles, like ATVs, will be allowed on county roads.

The Wellington County roads committee met virtually May 11, discussing whether to allow ORVs onto county-owned roadways after Minto town council requested the county allow OVRs on county roads within in the town.

Minto passed a bylaw in April allowing OVRs on their roads, a move in the same direction as other Wellington County municipalities (the exceptions being Erin and Centre Wellington) in allowing their OVRs onto town-owned roads, prompted by a change to provincial legislation which regulated their usage.

The key theme of the conversation was consistency, and whether rules could be applied evenly across the county or if the varying needs and desires of municipalities would leave such a goal in the dust.

“I think best case scenario, obviously, is if we had consistency across the county and the mayor municipalities; we tried to do that and it’s clear that that’s not gonna happen,” Warden and Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton said, noting that he receives “tons of complaints” about ATVs on roadways.

Minto Mayor George Bridge, wondered if the issue could be addressed as a group, if a larger consensus couldn’t be achieved.

“If we don’t do anything, if we stay with the county roads, then we definitely have to sign them somehow … it’s not fair to everybody to always remember, well, I’m on county road now,” Bridge said.

Local perspectives

Issues, or the lack thereof, with ATVs varied across the county.

Councillor and Mapleton Mayor Gregg Davidson, noted that riders have been using trails to bypass country roads they aren’t supposed to be on.

“I think it’s imperative that we actually have the county roads included in this and I would like to see the bylaw change,” Davidson said.

Councillor Jeff Duncan brought up concerns of communication with the public, saying there was pressure from people using ATVs wanting to use county roads.

“If we are going down this route, what’s our public communications going to be on this?” he said.

“The public isn’t keeping track of these road committee meetings.”

Councillor and Puslinch Mayor James Seeley, said ATVs are being driven regardless of the rules and called for consistency.

“The minority is dictating for the majority,” Seeley remarked, later saying he wanted to see a draft bylaw for permitting ORVs on county roads to clarify exactly what’s being discussed.

Linton was of the opinion that wouldn’t be a good use of the committee’s time, saying staff instead need a “clear sense of what items we would like to see as a committee” before possibly pursuing a draft bylaw.

“I would be in favour of  asking staff to put together a report with some of those considerations and what the potential impact of allowing this would be and whether or not, we should be considering allowing local municipalities to opt out,” said roads committee chair and Wellington North Mayor, Andy Lennox.

“I appreciate that people want to move ahead on this and that’s fine; I won’t be supporting it. I don’t think that this is a good use of our staff resources right now, they have enough other things to do, so I just wanted to make sure that was clear from my perspective,” Linton said before a vote on receiving a future report.

A motion was carried that will see the roads committee report back to council in September on the potential impacts of allowing ORVs on county roads, considerations to allow for municipalities to opt out, comment on enforcement from the OPP, feedback from lower tier councillors, and bylaws from townships allowing for ORVs on roadways.