Alex Kurial/Local Journalism Initiative
It looks like ATV riders will be able to legally tackle some of St. Clair Township’s roads and several other rural Lambton municipalities early next year.
Council discussed a bylaw to be voted on at their Jan. 4 meeting before Christmas. It would allow off-road vehicle use on roads in St. Clair’s rural areas.
The move is prompted by changes coming to the Highway Traffic Act. Starting New Year’s Day, ATV’s and other off-road vehicles will be legal on all municipal roads in Ontario unless there is a bylaw in place to restrict them.
Earlier in the month council had asked for information on what other Lambton County municipalities were doing.
Oil Springs already allows ATV’s on all their roads, and Warwick and Dawn-Euphemia are set to join them on Jan. 1.
Brooke-Alvinston allows off-road vehicles from dawn to dusk, but only outside of town limits.
Petrolia and Enniskillen will decide off-road vehicle status at future council meetings.
St. Clair Councillor Bill Myers thinks allowing ATV’s in the more rural areas of the township is a good compromise.
“From my experience the complaints we’ve had are from the urban areas, primarily along the river.
“I personally don’t think that’s a good fit for ATV use. But I think we have a lot of area in our township that possibly is appropriate for riding,” he says.
There are still several points to iron out though, such as which roads ATV’s will be allowed on, and during what times of the day.
Deputy Mayor Steve Miller pointed out many people use off-road vehicles to perform work around town, and an exception would need to be made for them.
Councillor Rose Atkins hopes a network of roads can be established to connect all the rural roads in the area that allow off-road vehicle use, including in Oil Springs and Chatham-Kent.She says the Lambton County Trails group is a good model of an organization that came together to fulfill a similar goal.
OPP would only be able to hand out tickets based on the Highway Traffic Act, as they don’t have the power to enforce municipal bylaws. But St. Clair clerk Jeff Baranek says that if a violation of the bylaw was discovered – such as operating an ATV on an unapproved road – OPP could still take down the person’s information and pass it along to the township for enforcement.
Baranek also says council is still prepared to hear a presentation from local ATV riders, and can always amend the bylaw based on their input.
While the bylaw is expected to pass Jan. 4, council also decided off-road vehicles will remain prohibited until the vote, despite the new provincial law set to come into play on New Year’s Day.