This month marks the end of a two-year trial period authorizing operators of ATVs to have access to specific municipal roadways and lands within Smiths Falls in order to link trails at the north and south ends of town. This was prompted by a request from the Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicles (OFATV). In the past two years, town staff have received no complaints or concerns about the operation of ATVs within town limits. Director of Public Works Paul McMunn submitted a report to the Committee of the Whole in Smiths Falls on Monday night, recommending that this trial period was successful and the connecting link should be approved permanently for ATV use.
Rick Gilfillen, president of the Rideau Lakes ATV Club (RLATVC), also submitted a request for the town to allow home-to-trail access for RLATVC members. Among other safety observances such as licensing, seatbelts, and helmets, Director McMunn noted that ATV operators would be required to restrict their speed to 20km/h on town streets.
Councillor Chris McGuire commented, “I’m very supportive of this. So excited to see this really great tourism initiative go through. However – the safety of the [old train] bridge crossing [is a problem]. There is a gap where the rail tie ends and the bridge begins that an adult could fall through. This has been brought up multiple times.” The fall height would be greater than 3 metres. McGuire suggested holding off on passing this motion until the gap in the bridge is repaired.
Councillor Niki Dwyer acknowledged Councillor McGuire’s opinion, “however, to hinge their approval to making this permanent on this is unfair. I don’t disagree that it needs to be resolved, but this is not the first time we talked about this. Perhaps we could add this as a priority item on how to solve this at the next Committee of the Whole meeting.”
Allen noted that the ATV users in town have been a positive presence. “I think we’re the only part of the Cataraqui Trail that allows this. I have been watching the reaction in our community; haven’t had any negative feedback on how they handle themselves. I do like Councillor McGuire’s idea as to how we can make this safer. I’m happy to support this.”
Councillor Brennan was also happy to support these bylaws.
The bylaw to allow ATVs home-to-trail access was approved by all council members. Due to safety concerns, Councillor McGuire requested a recorded vote about the connecting link which includes the gap in the rail bridge. This bylaw passed with a vote of four council members in favour, two against, and one absent.