(Barrie, ON, May 12, 2013): Stay off snowmobile trails on private land. That’s the message to ATV riders this summer from The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) following trespass complaints from many local snowmobile clubs and landowners.
Illegal trail use by ATV riders is the leading cause of snowmobile trail closures in many communities surrounded by private land. Often, ATVs have few authorized places to travel locally, so riders trespass by using closed snowmobile trails on private property — despite snowmobile clubs warnings to keep off, and without landowner permission. Most landowners, who give special permission for snowmobilers to ride a club trail on their property during the winter, do not want anyone on their land in other seasons. So if ATV trespass occurs, it can mean permanent closure of a trail by the landowner, so snowmobilers cannot even use it during the winter.
“Lack of permissible places for ATVs to ride is becoming a serious threat to the integrity of our provincial snowmobile trail system, so the OFSC is encouraging ATV groups to develop their own trails,” stated OFSC Executive Director Paul Shaughnessy. “Having ATV trails is essential now that many municipalities are considering by-laws that, if not properly developed, could allow ATVs to use local roads, thereby increasing deliberate and inadvertent trespass on our trails.”
Shaughnessy is referring to a provision of Bill 11 with which many municipalities are currently struggling. It allows a municipality to decide if ATVs can use their roads. Recently, the OFSC took an unequivocal position regarding ATV access to municipal roads:
“The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club supports the authorized use of ATVs on specific municipal roads when such use is part of a community-based plan for controlled ATV travel that includes approved access to suitable off-road ATV opportunities as well as planned enforcement programs and other defined measures to control both inadvertent and deliberate ATV trespass.”
The OFSC concludes that, if a municipality allows use of its roads by ATVs without ATVs having existing, legal trails to ride, then that municipality is effectively making its own roads the local ATV trail network. It is also tacitly promoting ATV trespass on private land, especially on closed snowmobile trails during the off-season. It is unlikely that either of these consequences is an intended or desirable outcome for any municipality.
“We support the Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicles (OFATV) and the desire of ATV riders to have trails of their own to ride,” concluded Shaughnessy, “and also recognize their need to move from ATV trail to ATV trail by road just as snowmobilers must with snowmobile trails in the winter. So we believe the priorities are to develop permissible local ATV trails, and then to allow road access where necessary.”
The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs is a volunteer led not-for-profit association, which through strong leadership, provides a wide range of quality programs and services to, and on behalf of, its member organizations. Our provincial network of organized snowmobile trails connects Ontario communities providing responsible riding experiences that are safe, enjoyable and environmentally sustainable.