Off-road vehicles to access Lindsay streets as Letham loses motion

Yeo changes his vote from last time council voted on issue to back Dunn

By Kirk Winter

Lindsay residents could start seeing ATVs on town streets as early as next May.

In a stunning about-face, Kawartha Lakes council voted down a motion by Mayor Andy Letham to prohibit ORVs from accessing local, collector or arterial roads in Lindsay. They instead approved a proposal by Councillor Pat Dunn that will allow for a two year trial project beginning in the spring of 2022 connecting northern and southern trails on either side of Lindsay with a previously discussed route through town.

In proposing his Lindsay ORV ban, Letham said, “There has been a lot of back and forth on this issue. There has been a lot of good conversation. It is clear that the majority of Lindsay residents do not want ORVs on their roads.”

Dunn suggested otherwise when he said, “I disagree that the majority spoke against this with only a 5 per cent response rate to our survey in Lindsay. This shouldn’t be all about Lindsay. This is a city-wide issue. The people in the southern part of the city want to get together with people in the northern part of the city, and ORVs run on roads paid for by all taxpayers. I don’t own Colborne Street even though my home fronts it and I don’t get a say in what kind of traffic can be on it.”

Dunn continued that the ORV issue has managed to separate the city like no other issue, and has many in rural wards believing that Lindsay gets “special consideration.”

“I have never seen anything more flagrant than the special consideration and position we have put the people of Lindsay in on this issue,” Dunn said.

Councillor Kathleen Seymour-Fagan, who served with Dunn on the ORV task force, told council that she received numerous emails in the last few days supporting the idea of a two-year trial run for ORVs through Lindsay. Seymour-Fagan mentioned that until these emails arrived, councillors had only really heard from one side in this issue who were “aggressive” and “threatening.” The Bobcaygeon-area councillor argued for a process that “was fair to all” and that let the task force finish its mandate.  

Councillor Tracy Richardson, who also served on the ORV task force, said, “We have recognized the growth of off-road vehicles in our community. We want to manage that growth safely. We need to help link routes. This is part of the rural lifestyle and it is a topic that is not going to go away. We are just asking for a chance (with the trial project).”

Deputy-mayor Pat O’Reilly added his voice to the conversation.

“I want to be brief. No other municipality of our size except possibly Wasaga Beach allows ORVs on the roads. We know these vehicles are here to stay and we are not against them, but not on the roads.”

O’Reilly’s position has been backed up by public health during this long debate over the course of the past year.

“ORV people are afraid to speak out until now,” Councillor Ron Ashmore suggested. “I have received 145 emails in favour of the two-year trial in just the last few days. Let’s give the plan a chance. This is an opportunity to support our businesses. ORVs are very positive for the community and it is about time that this council does something positive for the ORV community.”

Letham told council that he didn’t disagree with a lot of what was being suggested except for Councillor Dunn “spinning the survey results.”

In a rare flash of emotion in the usually staid council chambers, Dunn on a point of personal privilege, interrupted the mayor and shot back, “You have done nothing but sow division since this issue came up. You play both sides of the coin and then rig the system so it fails. If you are going to centre me out for spin you need to recognize how much spin you have been putting on this issue.”

Letham ignored the outburst.

“I support ORVs on the roads,” said the mayor. “We need to find another route (around Lindsay). Folks in Lindsay don’t want them. I have heard nothing from the BIA or Chamber. I don’t have an issue with the route through Lindsay but I don’t live there, but the residents do. I am not anti-ORV. Let’s just promote it in a different way. Let’s go around Lindsay.”

Letham called for a recorded vote on his motion to ban ORVs on Lindsay streets. The mayor lost 5-4 with Dunn, Ashmore, Seymour-Fagan, Richardson and Yeo voting against the motion. Elmslie, O’Reilly and Veale backed the mayor.

Dunn immediately introduced his motion that proposed the following pathway through Lindsay beginning spring 2022 for a two year trial period: The Victoria Rail Trail (VRT) trailhead at Logie Street to King Street, King Street to Lindsay Street, Lindsay Street to Wellington Street crossing the Wellington Street Bridge, Wellington Street to Victoria Avenue, Victoria Avenue to Elgin Street, Elgin Street to Angeline Street, Angeline Street to Thunderbridge Road, Thunderbridge Road to the VRT trailhead.

“If it doesn’t work we will shut it down,” Dunn promised. “The problem is people are afraid it will work.”

By the same 5-4 vote, Dunn’s motion won support and ORVs will likely be seen on city streets starting May of 2022.

Council also extended the mandate of the ORV Task Force until at least December of 2021, waiting for the group to report on linkages through Bobcaygeon, a possibility of a linkage with the Ganaraska Forest and the future of ORVs on rural roads.


  1. Ryan O says:

    5% response on a survey does not mean 95% support your position, Mr. Dunn. It means your survey was very inaccessible and had poor outreach. The mayor is right that you are spinning the results. Given the ward Mr. Dunn represents I’m really surprised to see this.

  2. Heather Muir says:

    My opinion is that the decision passed by Council (defeating Mayor Letham’s motion) has to be right up there at the very top of the most foolish, irresponsible decisions ever made by this Council.

  3. D'Arcy McGee says:

    This vote to allow ATV’s on busy streets through a growing community is one of the most ludicrous decisions I can recall in the 20 years I’ve lived here. One can only assume Councillor Dunn has aspirations of higher office, or retirement ,to spearhead such an initiative. Shame on the other council members who supported him. Should there be in serious accident with a local adult or child injured by an errant ATv driver, some blame will rest with this cabal of 5

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