Council recommends five out of six ATV trails, excludes Bobcaygeon option

By Kirk Winter

Council voted down a pathway through Bobcaygeon.

Kawartha Lakes council recommended the approval of five out of six routes that will allow owners of these vehicles to travel on city-owned roads to access the Victoria Rail Trail at various locations.

Despite numerous deputations opposing this decision, a majority of councillors recommended the approval of pathways through Pontypool, Janetville, Omemee, Cameron and Lindsay at their next regularly scheduled council meeting on Dec. 14. Council voted down a pathway through Bobcaygeon after deputations were made from Ann Adaire, Richard Fedy, Heather Stauble and Stephen Slack.

They spoke out strongly against the connection of Bobcaygeon to the system of trails, arguing that the public had not been properly consulted by the city, that public opinion in the community is against the extension

Councillor Pat Dunn, who chaired the ORV Task Force, prefaced his discussion of the individual routes with a statement about the issues of ORV safety that was brought up by the three deputations presented by William Steffler, Dr. Peter Petrosoniak and Denis Grignon.

“ORVs have been running the roads and have been permitted for 30 to 40 years,” Dunn said. “MTO (Ministry of Transportation Ontario) has deemed them safe with regulations. We are requiring helmets and very low speed limits. For the last 18 years they have been a success in Fenelon Falls. A lot of the health and safety information is not accurate.”

Dunn asked fellow task force member Councillor Tracy Richardson to discuss what went into choosing the pathways through Pontypool and Janetville that are both located in her ward.

“I have spoken to KATVA (Kawartha All Terrain Vehicle Association) and the people in my communities,” Richardson said. “We have people who want to get from their neighbourhoods to the trail on their ATVs. We were looking for the most direct routes as this is what residents want.”

Richardson said that a lot of care went into the decisions that were made including abandoning a connector to the Ganaraska Trail in Durham region for now.

“It will eventually come,” Richardson said. “For right now we are prioritizing folks who want to travel north. We tried to stay on roads that are wide, with good shoulders and roads that have good visibility.

Dunn said there was a very strong response from people in the Omemee area, and folks “wanted in” on being able to access the Victoria Rail Trail.

Councillor Ron Ashmore, whose ward contains Omemee, praised the pathway chosen. “It avoids congestion in Omemee. I have not met a single person who has said no to ATVs in Omemee. This will be positive for the village.”

Councillor Pat O’Reilly wondered if the inclusion of Mount Horeb Road was a good choice as it is very busy and speeding is already commonplace there.

Dunn admitted it is a busy road but that is more than offset in his opinion by the reality that the road is wide enough to accommodate both vehicles and ATVs.

Councillor Andrew Veale pressed Dunn and Ashmore about concerns with traffic congestion and flow in Omemee once ATVs are added to the mix.

“We have received no feedback about this issue either positive or negative,” Dunn said.

The pathway through Cameron proved much more problematic for the task force as Councillor Doug Elmslie, Mayor Andy Letham and Councillor Emmett Yeo questioned how safe Long Beach Road along the lakefront is, considering how narrow a road it is.

“We already have issues with speeding on that road, and it is very narrow,” said Elmslie. “Cameron Road is not a great stretch of road either.”

Yeo echoed Elmslie’s concerns, wondering if there is a way that the only ATV riders utilizing Long Beach Road could be limited to residents of that road.

Letham, who lives in the area, was even more concerned about the Highway 35 and Cameron Road intersection being part of the pathway saying, “In the summer that corner is a nightmare. Why are we doing this? I have a huge safety concern and am struggling with that intersection being included.”

After considerable give and take, the intersection was removed and a decision was made to limit the section of Long Beach Road east of Ranchers Road to local ATV traffic only.

In a bit of housekeeping left over from October, the task force asked for approval of the exit from the Lindsay pathway at Thunderbridge Road leading to Kenrei Road where ATVs could link with the trail. Council approved this without discussion.

The only pathway not approved was the one that would bring ATV traffic into downtown Bobcaygeon.

“This route makes absolutely no sense,” Letham said. “Other routes focused on road access to the VTR network. There is no trail in this area. I am really struggling with the logic of this route. We should see how the Lindsay pilot project goes first before opening up Bobcaygeon.”

Elmslie agreed stating, “This route does not support connectivity. It doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t link to anything.”

Emmett Yeo, the swing vote on the nine person council, sounded the death knell for the Bobcaygeon route when he said,” I am hedging on this one too. We need to know what Harvey Township (Peterborough County) allows with ATVs or this will not be a true trail linkage. This could create a free-for-all on many roads.”

By a vote of 5-4, the Bobcaygeon pathway was defeated.

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