CommunityCouncilTop Story

Council split on Bay Roberts ATV routes

By Mark Squibb/December 9, 2021

The Town of Bay Roberts is moving forward with a pilot project that will allow ATV and other off-road vehicles to use some town roads during certain hours, but not all members of council supported the motion.

Town CAO Nigel Black opened that the discussion at the November 23 council meeting by reminding members that the planning committee had been meeting to discuss four potential ATV routes.

Route one followed along Eric Dawe Drive and past Amalgamated Academy, the Wilbur Sparkes Soccer Pitch, and the Wilbur Sparkes Recreation Complex, and Bay Roberts Drive.

The second route followed down along Shearstown Road.

Route three followed through “Muddy Hole” before traveling Northside Road, and Earle’s Road and connecting to the Veterans and LT Stick back to the track.

Route four involved crossing the Shearstown Estuary and then traveling on the CB Highway to Bay Roberts Drive where the trail would reconnect with the track right of way.

“At the end of the day we discussed all of these, and all of them had pros and cons certainly, but we did think there were a lot of pros to the fourth route, which we hadn’t previously discussed,” said Black.

But that fourth route included a portion of the CB Highway, so the town would have to consult with the Department of Transportation and Works before it could be approved, and for that reason, the route was set aside for the time being.

Because they couldn’t move ahead with route four, the committee found itself back to square one, namely routes one and two.

Black recommended that council approve six-month pilot program, for ATV and off-road vehicle use based on proposed regulations and two routes.

As per the regulations, both routes are closed to ATV traffic between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and route one will be only open during non-school hours. Amongst other regulations, vehicles must not exceed 30 kph.

Black said there were some points to consider before putting the motion to a vote.

“The first is this is a six-month pilot project as previously discussed,” said Black. “The second is we would not put any of the routes into effect until the three parties — those being the Town of Spaniard’s Bay, the Town of Bay Roberts, and the provincial government —agreed on the Shearstown Esturary.

Mayor Walter Yetman asked Black to confirm the town is still waiting on the provincial government’s response, to which Black replied that is the case.

Councilor Silas Badcock motioned, and councilor Dean Franey seconded the motion, adding a suggestion that a fifth potential route be considered along Barracks Road and Water Street, as it would incorporate more local businesses along the route and bypass the schools and recreation areas. Franey added the entire area near the Wilbur Sparkes recreation centre is shut down to all vehicle traffic during the Light the Lamp tourney.

Councilor Perry Bowering was not impressed with the motion.
“I wasn’t on council when the groundwork was done for this, but just looking at some of the background, it says there was a survey conducted on 65 homes and there was only 15 returned surveys,” said Bowering. “And this is in the area that’s going to be affected?”

Black said that information was old, as town staff later went door-to-door in the area, and that more comments were noted, although not many more.

“When I was campaigning and talking to people, I had several people on that route who said they never heard from anyone and never had any chance for input,” said Bowering. “I personally think there should be more public consultation with the homeowners before we move forward. That’s my two cents worth.”

Black said the town did it’s due diligence by providing the online survey and then following up with the door-to-door campaign. He allowed there were some small areas missed during the door-to-door campaign.

Councilor Frank Deering, a member of the planning committee, said the plan was to approve the route temporarily while council contacted the provincial government regarding Route 4.

“I’m not for going down this way, but I’m for letting it go through just for the winter, because the ball field isn’t open, none of the soccer fields are open, and if we’re working to get the Conception Bay Highway Route opened up, this is a good time to do it,” he allowed.

“It’s a temporary route until we hear about option four,” said Deering. “A pilot project, if it works, it’s going to continue to stay in that area,”

Badcock said it was important for council to keep in mind that it was a pilot project, which meant they could make adjustments as necessary.

Yetman agreed with that sentiment.

“My idea of a pilot project is, it’s six months, but at any time, if it doesn’t work for our community, at any time, one month, two months, or whatever, we can have another look at this,” said Yetman.

Franey said it was chance to prove there are responsible ATV users in town, and that they deserve a route of their own.

“I really would like to see other options explored in the future,” he added.

Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour, however, was not on board with the project, temporary or not.

He thanked the committee for its hard work, but said he was disappointed with the motion.

“When this went back to the committee, I was under the impression and I thought that we had heard from councilors here, besides myself, who had campaigned in this area and heard from people who had concerns with this, yet we came back to the same routes, so I’m very disappointed in that,” said Seymour. “I see this as a high risk, low reward situation. High risk being there are two schools up there, so about 1,500 kids, buses, parents, after school events now that we’re coming out of COVID, and schools don’t end at three o’clock or 4 o’clock anymore, by the way, sports are going on after school, we’ve got a million-dollar recreation facility that doesn’t close four o’ clock, we’ve got an agenda item about running the track league so people can be up there at night walking, so that area doesn’t stop. It’s not going to stop. And, we have a resident street in Shearstown that’s mostly a construction zone, and it’s going to be like that for a while. What’s left of it has no sidewalks or shoulders, so people would be walking on the side of the road when the bikes are coming through. So, it’s filled with risk, and there’s no reward, because all I keep hearing is economic value, and there’s not one business on these routes, other than the gas station at the end of Shearstown. So, there’s no economic value in any of this. None. I’m not going to support it, which seems irrelevant at this point because everyone seems to be on board with it, and that’s fine. I’ll own my opinion on it. At the end of the day, I hope I’m wrong, because if I’m wrong and you’re right that means no one got hurt. But those are my concerns and I won’t be supporting it.”

Seymour’s belief that he alone was against the motion proved to be misplaced.

“I’m right aboard with Deputy Mayor Seymour,” said Bowering.

Both Seymour and Bowering voted against the motion, both noting they are not opposed to ATVS, but they are opposed to the routes themselves.

Seymour asked for clarification that it was still dependent on the provincial government signing off on the use of the estuary, which Black confirmed.
The vote on the routes was initially supposed to have happened earlier this fall, but was delayed by the September municipal election.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *