Bay Roberts council votes to put ATV pilot project into gear

By Mark Squibb | July 29, 2021

The Town of Bay Roberts has adopted a six-month pilot project which will allow ATV users to ride on two roads within the town— although the project won’t come into effect until August 20.

Part of the reason for the delay is that council will not vote on the regulations governing ATV use on the routes until the August 17 meeting. There will also be some work, including installing signs, that will need to be done before the routes ae open to off roaders.

The motion came to the council agenda last week after the completion of an online public consultation process.

“Based on a previous approval in principle, we, we being the planning committee, started a public consultation process, and a survey was conducted,” explained Town CAO Nigel Black. “We had it open for around 15 days, and we had a lot of uptake on the survey.”

Some 923 people replied to the survey. About 67 percent replied yes to the question, ‘Do you agree with the pilot project for allowing ATVS on selected, approved roadways.’  Nine percent said no, while the remaining 24 per cent selected another option.

About 85 percent of respondents felt that users should be allowed to use other roads to link directly to the proposed route.

Additionally, 88 percent indicated they were ATV users, while 70 per cent indicated they were residents of Bay Roberts. Thirty-six per cent claimed to own property along the proposed route.

“Most people that responded to the survey were in favor of doing this in one way, shape, or form,” said Black. “They do have some concerns, mostly concerns about people abusing it. Not using it responsibly is the primary concern.”

Black said the town has also spoken with the RCMP, which indicated they will work with Bay Roberts if the proposal moves forward.

Black added the Town of Spaniard’s Bay is generally in favor of removing the barricades on the Shearstown Estuary and trestle, but is waiting for Bay Roberts to approve the pilot project. Approval from Spaniard’s Bay is another box that needs to be checked before the routes open on August 20.

Mayor Philip Wood asked that the proposed regulations be read for the benefit of those who might be listing to the meeting.

The regulations state that ATV use on Route Number One, Eric Dawe Drive, would be permitted only during non-school hours to safely accommodate Amalgamated Academy students and patrons of the Wilbur Sparkes Recreation Centre and Soccer Pitch, while Route Number Two, Shearstown Road, would not be restricted to non-school hours. Both routes would be closed to ATV/off road traffic between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Other regulations were lifted directly from the provincial regulations, and ensure that drivers possess a valid driver’s license, proof of liability insurance, not exceed speeds of 30 kilometers an hour, and so forth. Other conditions and fines are to be included later.

Councilor Dean Franey noted that towns across the province have become more ATV friendly, and applauded council’s cautious approach.

“I like the fact that we’re starting slow,” said Franey. “We’ll open up the proposed route, give it time to grow, and let people get used to it. It promotes responsible usage. Unfortunately, we’re always going to have the bad apples. The bad apples are there now. I’d hope that this however would turn some of those bad apples into good apples. That would be the ideal scenario. I’m a supporter of this, but if I felt that it was being taken advantage of and people were not taking care and being responsible users, I would have no problem rescinding my support. Because this is what it’s about, promoting responsible usage, and showcasing our town.”

Other councilors applauded the proposal, including Deputy Mayor Walter Yetman, who said he appreciated the feedback from residents, and was glad the town is going the route of a pilot project, rather then just jumping in with a permanent program.

“I’m glad to hear that this is a six-month pilot project, as it means we can always revisit, and if it’s not working out, we’ll have a chance to make changes, or get rid of it altogether,” he cautioned.

Similarly, councilor Wade Oates said that while he supported the proposal, he wasn’t in favor of connecting different routes just yet.

Councilor Geoff Seymour said that though he was glad for the RCMP involvement and the online survey, he was disappointed there was no direct consultation with residents living along the proposed routes.

“That was my understanding, that they were being consulted directly,” said Seymour. “My understanding was that we were going to consult with people living in this directly, through a door-to-door survey or whatever. We’re assuming everyone’s got facebook, but we don’t know that. So, that’s a concern that I have. I’m not anti-T’Rrailway at all, I just want to make sure that the concerns of residents are addressed. So, while this is a good start, I think we should have went a bit further.”

Seymour also said he felt the numbers were deceptive, noting that 30 percent of respondents did not even live in Bay Roberts, and that the majority them were ATV owners, which skewed the results in his opinion.

He also had concerns about who would be held responsible should someone be injured while crossing provincial Route 70.

To that, Director of Protective Services Justin Parsons explained that as per the provincial regulations, users can cross a roadway if they have insurance.

Seymour also asked why council was recommending two routes. Black explained that both routes were being recommended, as one would not be useable during school hours. Seymour said enforcement would be easier with just one route.

Yetman asked whether the route will be seasonal or not, as the added burden of snowfall could create challenges. Franey suggested those decisions can be made as the weather turns, and if the route is limited to warmer seasons, so be it.

Finally, Black circled back to Seymour’s earlier comments in which he expressed his disappointment that residents along the route were not directly consulted.

“That was something that was discussed at the council table, and I think it was a bit of an oversight, to be honest with you,” said Black. He suggested that, as the routes wouldn’t come into effect until August 20, and the regulations not adopted until the August 17 council meeting, there will be time to arrange door-to-door surveys.

Council voted unanimously to approve the pilot project, subject to approval of the regulations at the next meeting – or, as expressed by Seymour, “subject to what I hear from residents.”

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