New information forces pause for ATV access through town

Rick Gilfillen, president of the Rideau Lakes ATV Club
Rick Gilfillen, president of the Rideau Lakes ATV Club, was unexpectedly given permission to speak at council Monday. Photo credit: Sally Smith
Posted on: June 11, 2019

In an unusual move, Rick Gilfillen, president of the Rideau Lakes ATV Club, was allowed to speak at council Monday night. In question is a travel road through town for ATVs.

Before Gilfillen spoke, Troy Dunlop, Director of Public Works and Utilities, tossed new information into council’s lap: Bill 107, the Getting Ontario Moving Act, was given Royal Assent last Friday. This means, he added, that instead of passing bylaws to prohibit something happening, “now municipalities have to pass bylaws to permit.” So, unless Smiths Falls prohibits ATVs in town, chances are it’s going to happen.

Gilfillen suggested a “temporary usage agreement until [the town’s] strategic plan is finished. There was no question, he implied, that “that’s the trail. There’s no other alternative unless there’s a change or something is built.” The area is down Harold,  Ferrara and Abbott. He pointed out that Ottawa has been doing temporary usage agreements for 10 years. “It’s not unusual.

“We just want that portion of the trail at no cost to the town. We’ll sign it, look after whatever has to be done, and police it as well.

“I get two calls a week from south of the border, and northern Ontario. They want to come, stay here and leave from here, and use this as central.

“There are four surrounding clubs that all want to connect into Smiths Falls. This little 1.5 km stretch will connect all four clubs.”

Councillor Alford, in the chair Monday, noted there will be a delegation at next week’s meeting (June 17) from the 1000 Island ATV Club, which neighbours Smiths Falls.

Direction to staff was to take a week’s time to review regulations, legislation and expectations and come back to council. This week’s recommendation to council was to include the ATV club in future planning for “developing connectivity to regional trail networks.”

In early 2017, the RLATV initially asked the town to consider a trail system accessing town roads and providing a link between Rideau Lakes Township and the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail (OVRT) owned by County of Lanark. The entry point would be the west end of Broadview Ave and the exit point Hwy. 43 at the municipal compost site. The key component was a request  to allow ATV access on 1.5 km of affected municipal roadway.

By November 2017 all the property investigations were completed; in December of 2017, when the RLATV club met with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA), they concluded that “use of parts of the existing trails and accesses…did not present concerns, but, “the development of new trail alterations, excavations or grade raises in these areas would require further review and possibly environmental impact studies.”

In early 2018 the town heard from Parkview Homes that access that had been previously granted could no longer be accommodated; this raised concerns with the RLATV Club. It would have to look at other options to complete the rail system.

In 2018, the RLATV Club approached town council on its own requesting “a newly proposed trail that would come into town on the west end of Broadview and run through Harold, Ferrara and Abbott St south.”

Neighbours were more than concerned.

Throughout the summer of 2018, the RLATV Club explored other options; the Catarqui Trail was discussed but the Catarqui Region Conservation Authority made it known that the “main trail west of the town carried a non-motorized designation, with the exception of snowmobiles.” As well, no alternate routes were found to avoid the residential areas of Ferrara Dr and Abbott St.

In October 2018, the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail opened in Lanark County; this is a 61 km section of multi-use trail connecting Montague north to existing trails in Renfrew County.

This, then, brings new opportunities to the town to explore further connectivity to this recreational asset — 296 km of linked trails between the County  of Lanark Renfrew County and the Township of Papineau-Cameron.

Troy Dunlop, Director of Public Works and Utilities, asked CoW to “include the RLATV Club in the future planning for developing connectivity to regional trail networks.” Included in the recommendation is that, along with the RLATV Club, the Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicles (OFATV) also be included as a key stakeholder in the development of regional trail connections. This, the report states, “would ensure that any new multi-use urban trails are developed collaboratively through active engagement with the future trail users and the general public.”

One thought on “New information forces pause for ATV access through town

  1. Vicki Wallace

    This is very distressing for residents on Code Crescent, Lee, and Harold as we already risk our lives every time we try to cross Harold. The city put in speed bumps, but the cars fly between them, beep their horns and rev their engines.

Comments are closed.