KAWARTHA LAKES – The off-road Vehicle Task Force recommendations for expanding available terrain in Kawartha Lakes have been deferred.
Recently, the provincial government passed Bill 107, a provincial regulation that will permit off-road vehicles, ORV, use on all road networks under municipal jurisdiction, unless the municipality itself restricts access. Bill 107 doesn’t apply to the City of Kawartha Lakes, CKL, because of the municipal structure but it does apply to almost all the municipalities that border it.
And even though the new Bill doesn’t apply to CKL, council decided to delve into more possibilities for ORV users and developed an Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Task Force in hopes of creating more safe opportunities for those who want to enjoy the trails that the city has to offer.
At a recent council meeting, after months of deliberation, public meetings and constant review, the task force presented various recommendations to council, which have mostly been deferred to June and September.
“We have done our due diligence, we have listened to our residents over and over and over, we did do our work, we didn’t take this lightly,” said Councillor Kathleen Seymour Fagan, who is also part of the task force. “I don’t have a problem putting it off until June, people opposed, come froward, this might give us a bit more time to work together but we have tried the best we could as an entire task force.”
Since the task force was established, the team has reviewed current by laws, formulated recommendations and publicized them. They have also solicited feedback from respective agencies such as the Kawartha Lakes Police Service, KLPS, Ontario Provincial Police, OPP, the local health unit, legal, insurance and risk management, economic development, city departments, bylaw and more.
According to task force chairmen, Councillor Pat Dunn, the team began to move forward after public meetings and response reviews from various agencies. The team also reviewed approximately 600 emails from the public, he said.
“We read all the responses from various agencies, responses were always considered,” he said. “Moving forward our general recommendations, when we talk ORVs, we are talking ATVs and side by sides as currently permitted on the trail, open all rural roads other than those deemed unsafe by city staff and committee.”
The task force also went on the recommend the development of a two-year pilot program to be reviewed and amended after the first year. Dunn also noted that ORVs should also be restricted between 7 a.m. and 9:30 P.m. on the city roads that are permitted, a recommendation from the local health unit.
“We wanted to establish a time when they couldn’t be there,” he said.
Council moved and agree that any road access that will be discussed will be open from May 1 to December 30, between 7a.m. – 9:30 p.m. which the current trail bylaw states.
Council and Mayor Andy Letham agreed that the recommendation to open all rural roads in the municipality to ORVs would be deferred until September to enable the task force to provide specific rural routes that would be open for riders.
And while the task force developed specific routes through Bobcaygeon and Lindsay, both recommendations have also been deferred until June, to review further while retrieving additional public input.
Councillor Dunn was disappointed with the decision and was hoping to move forward with a solid route for Lindsay.
“We had a meeting with you yesterday (Mayor), you were unable to come up with an alternate route, I don’t understand how in the heck, by putting it off another month do we come up with an alternate route,” he said. “We have been kicking this can down the road and I’m pretty sure in June, when we come back, we will have exactly the same route we have right now.”
After careful, strategic planning, the task force recommended that ATVs travel through the town of Lindsay by using these proposed routes, which will not be finalized until the June Committee of the Whole meeting.
Recommended travel routes from Southern trail head to Northern trail head and vice versa • Logie St. to King St. • King St to Lindsay St. • Lindsay St. to Wellington St. • Wellington St. to Victoria Ave. • Victoria Ave. to Colborne St. W • Colborne St. W. to Angeline St. N • Angeline St. N to Thunder Bridge Rd. • Thunder Bridge Rd. to Trail Head.
The team also provided a Logie Street Trail Head Alternative, Logie St. to Lindsay St. • North on Lindsay St. to Wellington St. • Wellington St. to Victoria Ave. • Victoria Ave. to Colborne St. W • Colborne St. W. to Angeline St. N • Angeline St. N to Thunder Bridge Rd. • Thunder Bridge Rd. to Trail Head
“This has been on the drawing board shortly after we started, we looked at options, there is no viable options to go around Lindsay and we are not prepared to recommend we build a special bridge to hook up with trail,” said Councillor Dunn. “If we want to hook the trail heads up, it has to come through town, we have had lots of discussions, KLPS are aware of every motion made, there was no negative feedback.”
According to Dunn, this route was thought out carefully as the team considered traffic lights, stop signs, road width and more.
And while the task force also established specific routes for Bobcaygeon, these recommendations will also return to council in June for further discussion.
Councillor Seymour Fagan recommended a route that will allow vehicles into the Bobcaygeon commercial district, enabling more visitors to stay in hotels, enjoy local restaurants and more, boosting the tourism sector for the community.
The task force also recommended that all trail users be equipped with a Kawartha ATV Association, KATVA, membership but according to Mayor Letham, the city’s legal opinion from the solicitor determined that this provided no valid public purpose from a safety perspective and would not hold up in court.
“Road access is supposed to link to the trail, trail head or linking trails, if KATVA required a permit to be on the trail, it’s up to them to enforce it, according to our legal opinion, we should stay out of that argument for any road connections requiring a permit,” said Mayor Letham.
Councillor Doug Elmslie noted that while the KATVA membership cannot be enforced by council, it should be encouraged.
“They (KATVA) spend a lot of their money to make sure trails are in good shape for everyone to use,” he said. “So I think us encouraging people to belong to KATVA, I think if we strongly encourage it, that might be a way to go.”
And while many councillors seemed disappointed in the decision to defer the recommendations until June, Mayor Letham, reiterated the importance of the constituents and their feelings, noting that more time is needed to carefully go over the plans again.
“I speak against it as it stands, I’m not opposed to linking the north to the south, and I certainly am not saying the task force didn’t look at this and take it all into consideration, but there has been a lot of public comments and concerns, there is no big rush, we are talking about implementing this in September if it passes,” he said. “Let’s go back in June, bring it to the table, we owe it to the folks that are concerned, there are people that live on the route that are concerned, residents we have heard you, we have heard your concerns, it’s not about what we think, it’s about the community.”
Mayor Letham added that he is in favour of trying it but noted that if it doesn’t work and riders aren’t carefully following the guidelines, the new riding territory will be shut down.
“If it doesn’t work, we shut it down, this is a privilege, if they abuse it, they will lose that privilege,” he said. “Let’s take a another look for our residents.”