Wellington North favours allowing ATVs on local roads

KENILWORTH – Councillors here believe there should be a northern option to allow ATV use on township roads.

Wellington North’s Nov. 4 open forum took the ATV issue for a spin to gauge council reaction.

Mayor Andy Lennox said it was something council had discussed in the past, but felt it was time for an updated discussion.

Councillor Sherry Burke asked if there had been more discussion since the last time council looked at this.

She said at one time  it was thought maybe the county would take the lead on this.

Lennox said “since then we’ve gone through an election cycle and the county has had no additional discussion to this point.”

At the time, he said, there was not much interest particularly in the southern end of allowing ATV use on county roads. “… but there was potential if more than one municipality wanted to move forward.”

Lennox said he has had several discussions with Mapleton residents, he had not had any recent discussion with Minto residents.

“I think part of the reason for having this discussion is gauging our appetite for this to further discussions.”

Burke noted provisions within the Highway Traffic Act do allow limited use – such as crossing from one side of the highway to the other.

“I don’t see a need from my perspective that it needs to be extended further if there is no buy in from the county or our northern neighbours.”

Burke said it could make things more complicated for both police enforcement and for ATV riders in knowing the boundaries of where they can or cannot ride.

She added there are differences in use between recreational ATV riders and those using ATVs as part of farm operations.

Burke understood there are trails for ATVs to the north in Grey and Bruce counties.

She asked if the township does not want this use on its walking trails is there a need to provide places where they can ride.

Councillor Steve McCabe said he did see a need to allow ATVs to use local roads.

He added “I really don’t see any difference between this use and snowmobiles.”

McCabe said “ATVs must be licenced by the province and have a plate. They must also be insured all year round, not just for six months. I would really like to talk to the county about this and push for a northern annex, or whatever you’d like to call it, to allow ATVs.”

He said there is a difference in needs between southern and northern Wellington County.

McCabe said “I think police have better things to do than monitor people on ATVs which are licenced, riders who are wearing helmets and are insured.”

Lennox said one of the issues raised was the need for consistent rules across the county – “rather than a patchwork of enforcement.”

Councillor Lisa Hern said she found it ironic that its been suggest that allowing ATV use on local roads might increase trespassing.

“I think the opposite is true,” she said. “(ATVs) are out there anyway. If they can legally drive down the road, they are going to be off private property where they can potentially do a lot of damage.”

Hern quipped that on a recent visit to Elliott Lake, she saw an ATV at a Tim Hortons.

“Were they going through the drive-thru?” asked the mayor.

“Yes,” Hern responded.

Councillor Dan Yake said “I think there is an appetite for this and that we should move forward on this.”

He added “there is a tendency to paint everything in the county with the same brush … and it is not the same.”

Yake said there is a different demographic in northern Wellington.

He said snowmobiles are generally used on the trails, but are able to drive next to roads and within town.

“I really think we need to move forward on this. Whatever the holdup is … we need to go forward and have another election cycle pass and still have nothing done.”

Lennox noted there are specific exemptions for ATVs used as part of farm operations.

He noted when this was discussed during the previous term of council, he thought this was mainly a rural issue.

“Boy, did I get my eyes opened. I talked to more urban people on this issue than any rural people.”

Lennox said in the Mount Forest area, ATVs are allowed on the roads in the municipalities of Southgate and West Grey.

He said residents are telling him “all we want to do is to be able to get to those roads.”

“I was shocked by the number of people who have talked to me about this.”

He also heard comments about ATVs on private properties or abandoned rail lines – which are still private properties.

He noted that last summer he watched an ATV cross Highway 6 from an abandoned rail line, then travelled along residential streets into the heart of town.

“I know the police don’t see this a top priority in terms of policing, but I think it would be easier to keep ATVs off of inappropriate places if they were allowed to use local roads,” Lennox said.

Lennox clarified the township could proceed on its own and allow them on Wellington North roads.

He noted there are different rules in place along provincial highways.

Yake advocated not to drag out the issue. “Let’s make it happen,” he said.