DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The City of Kawartha Lakes has decided to move forward with allowing off-road vehicles on certain municipal roads but has deferred some of the specific decisions regarding implementation.


The issue was discussed at a Committee of the Whole meeting, held on Tuesday, May 4th, after councillors saw the recommendations from the City’s Off Road Vehicle Use of City Roads Task Force.


During the early portion of the session, councillors heard a number of deputations regarding the issue from local residents.
“ATVing, like snowmobiling, is a major rural motorsport in our area. It is part of all of our rural communities and always has been. There continues to be a really fast-growing interest from local businesses and the general public, to embrace recreational opportunities and tourism in the City of Kawartha Lakes and the surrounding areas,” Kerrie Bartlett said.


But some residents had safety concerns about allowing vehicles like this on city and rural roads.


“Safety is by far the most important consideration. I understand there are other factors you (council) are looking at, but that is the primary consideration. In 2013, our health unit warned ATVs were a significant source of injury and death and recommended council not implement a bylaw which would allow road access for ATVs,” Heather Stauble said.


Ms. Stauble added, “rural roads are not safer” with ATVs on them, and stated if council moves forward with this, “there will be more accidents, more hospitalizations, and inevitably more deaths.”


Councillors approved motions to receive the task force’s recommendations, to discuss an amendment to Bylaw 2019-077, to “allow more road access for ATV’s only South of Road 8.” The recommendations also included: to set a two year term for any pilot project the city initiates, regarding opening city roads to off-road vehicles; to have that pilot project reviewed after the first year; and to permit access to city roads from 7 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. from May 1st until November 30th, if the city moves forward with allowing them access.


However, council also voted to refer the issues of “the use of off-road vehicles on rural roads” and a “specific road linkage, leading from the Bethany Trail Head to the Ganaraska Forest,” back to the task force for review in September. Council asked for the task force to finalize and bring back a route for off-road vehicles, “leading into [the] commercial district of Bobcaygeon,” to the June 1st Committee of the Whole meeting.


Also, while the task force had prepared two Lindsay routes for ATV use, for potential approval, some council members were not comfortable making that decision.


“I’m not saying the task force didn’t look at this and take it into consideration. I know you did. There’s been a lot of public comments, a lot of public concerns, and I really think there’s no big rush here. We’re talking about implementing [this] in September if it passes,” Mayor Andy Letham said.


Mayor Letham also stated he has a concern with ATVs using Colborne Street and Angeline Street.


The Lindsay route decision was deferred to the June 1st meeting. Lastly, council approved referring “the issue of additional road linkage, to provide all-terrain vehicles with road access to and from any established ATV route through Lindsay,” to the task force for review in September.