-by Hub Staff

A well-attended public meeting in Owen Sound council chambers saw city staff taking questions and suggestions about an ATV route on city streets. The route, proposed by the South Bruce Peninsula ATV Club, is available on-line, where there is also a survey and contact information for residents to make their comments. All feed-back will be compiled by staff for the Corporate Services Committee, who will prepare one or more recommendations, and Council will make the final decision.

One ATV club member said that since the province has allowed ATVs on the shoulders of most highways, many municipalities have created by-laws to allow the vehicles to pass through them as they travel from trailto trail. In particular, the club members want to access services on the east side of Owen Sound and the west-side trails that lead to the peninsula, without having to trailer their machines.

All ATVs are subject to regulation under the Highway Traffic Act, which mandates front and rear running lights, licences for vehicle and driver, insurance and helmets and is enforced by the OPP and city police. Speed and noise restrictions and hours of travel are included in most municipal by-laws, but residents, some with previous experience in other jurisdictions, are concerned about the difficulty and cost of enforcing those local concerns.

"This plan is short-sighted and ill-conceived," said former radio host Dave Carr, whose home is on the proposed route. "Because although Owen Sound is the market centre of a rural community it is not, itself, a rural community." Carr found out about the meeting when he was approached by a neighbour, and had spent the previous few days looking for information and opinion in social media and on websites. While he was sympathetic to the recreational riders need to get gas and food, he pointed out that there is only one gas station on the entire cross-town route which travels primarily through residential neighbourhoods.

Craig Johnston, also a resident on the proposed route, pointed out that it passes schools and daycares that more than 500 children attend and where cars are regularly picking them up and dropping them off.

Staff provided a map of the core areas of the city in which snowmobiles are prohibited, and snowmobiles were a common subject for discussion. Although snowmobile engines are generally louder than those of ATVs, some residents were more tolerant of them because their season is relatively short and covers the months people are generally indoors with windows closed. Businesses on 16th Street East, including gas stations and restaurants, do a lot of business with winter sledders and would welcome expanding that recreational crowd to four seasons. Proponents pointed to municipalities like Elliot Lake and others where the ATV industry is a significant and growing element of the economy.

One recommendation was to follow the lead of some other communities, establishing roads that ATVs could not use, rather than a defined route through the city. Alternate routes around and through the city were also suggested.

While some attendees were adamantly opposed to any ATVs on city streets based on safety, noise and peaceful enjoyment of residential neighbourhoods, others left with the opinion that some access for these vehicles was reasonable, but the city should go back to the drawing board for a new route or routes.


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