Residents of Harold Street were not wholly assured at Committee of the Whole Monday evening in Smiths Falls that their Saturday morning peace would not be interrupted by ATVs running down the road from sunset to sundown.
Rick Gilfillen, president and trail co-ordinator of the Rideau Lakes All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Club, came to CoW asking for a bylaw for “approval of [a] land use agreement to connect to the Ottawa Valley Recreation Trail.” Having tried other alternatives, his solution (for the moment) is for ATVs to use Harold Street, a quiet residential street on the south side of town, as part of their route.
Residents of the street packed Council Chambers to learn the outcome; the bylaw was not automatically granted, and council requested staff to look at “alternative rights.”
When the question of using the Catarqui Trail was raised by Councillor Dawn Quinn, who sits on the Catarqui Trail Management Board, the answer, from them, was an unequivocal “no.” Gilfillen commented he had asked the board as well – with the same answer.
So he is looking for an alternative. The land use agreement would allow trail passage through Smiths Falls to connect to the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail (OVRT). The OVRT is 296 km from Smiths Falls to Mattawa. The portion of the OVRT closest to Smiths Falls ends in Montague Township at Sturgess Road. Gilfillen is hoping to connect the trail system through Smiths Falls allowing ATV riders to access local amenities and attractions. He came to CoW asking if this was a possibility.
“We’re ready to go,” he added. Hoping to allay some of the consternation of Harold Street homeowners, he suggested this could be on a trial basis “for a year or two.” He also described ATV use as “not steady, usually Saturday, maybe Sunday, sporadic, not constant.”
At the moment, as there is no bylaw in Smiths Falls regarding ATVs, no ATV access to roads is permitted. As a strong proponent of the use of the four-wheeled vehicles, Gilfillen added the following to council’s discussion: to ride on the Rideau Valley trails, riders must have an Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicle Club (OFATV) permit. Both a licence and insurance are required to buy the $150 annual permit. ATV drivers ride at 20 km under the posted speed limit, and can only be on the road from sunrise to sunset.
Director of Public Works and Facilities, Troy Dunlop, added that “the legislative framework is rigid” and can restrict riders both “hourly and monthly.”
To Dave Thornley, Harold Street resident, the issue is the noise level of ATVs, and secondly possible danger. The community surrounding Harold Street is residential with a lot of children and many who get out and walk. “We are a subdivision trying to reduce traffic, not add to it.” Safety of pedestrians is a prime concern, as is the possible congestion of traffic as ATVs will be moving more slowly than vehicular traffic. “Are we going to have cars passing them on our street? he asks.
Discussion ensued after Gilfillen’s presentation. CoW members decided to look at “alternative rights” which included councillor Quinn’s suggestion to go back to the Cataraqui Board and see if there was some way of working out a solution rather than running through town. At the moment, according to Gilfillen, “every municipality in eastern Ontario has a bylaw in place” regarding ATVs.
Gilfillen’s final plea was that “it’s just one kilometre running a few streets.”