EAC Position Statement on ATVs and Trails - 2010

Date Published

EAC supports strict limits to the recreational use of ATVs and other types of vehicles used “off-highway” to designated trails only as per the recommendations of the Off Highway Vehicles Task Force and the provincial government's Off Highway Vehicles Action Plan. This will amount to a substantial reduction from the "go-everywhere" defacto network of the past. These designated trails should be properly engineered for both safety and for the elimination of environmental damage, and be approved by the government and the Off Highway Vehicles Ministerial Advisory Committee.  Off Highway Vehicles (OHVs) should not range off of designated trails. The routing of these trails should avoid parks, protected areas and sensitive ecosystems including streams, wetlands and beaches as per the Off Highway Vehicle Act. This is the law and enforcement of the law is of paramount importance to ensure compliance.

We believe that OHV use on trails, including abandoned rail beds, should in general be prohibited from residential areas (towns and urban/suburban neighborhoods). Although not strictly an environmental issue, we feel that the rights and safety of adjacent homeowners and non-motorized trail users far outweigh the assumed privilege of OHV riders to drive through residential areas. We also advocate for Active Transportation for the social, health and environmental benefits it brings and accept the premise and growing body of evidence that a significant percentage of the population will avoid walking, skiing, biking, etc. on so-called "shared-use" trails where OHVs are driven on trails in residential areas. We also support the Off Highway Vehicles Task Force recommendation that local communities and municipalities should be empowered by the Province to determine the appropriate use, and restrictions on use, of local trails that go through communities and neighborhoods with the default being a general prohibition. This would put the onus on OHV enthusiasts to provide proof that there is full community support to allow one or more forms of motorized use on a given trail in their community and to obtain official municipal government approval for such use before it is allowed.

With respect to a so-called “end-to-end” OHV trail network in Nova Scotia, EAC argues that this is simply impractical given that roughly 70% of the provincial landmass is privately owned and that such an extensive motorized trail network would require driving directly through many communities. As such we believe that the focus should be on providing reasonable local trail riding opportunities to OHV riders through local designated trail networks that minimize or eliminate environmental damage and social conflict while at the same time providing legally and socially acceptable riding opportunities for OHV enthusiasts. Where local OHV trail networks can be connected we do not oppose such connections. Where such connecting trails are not reasonably possible, riders should accept this and be required to put their OHVs on trailers and transport them to trailhead areas in order to access designated OHV trails in neighboring areas. Regardless of location, EAC maintains that speed limits are essential on all trails where OHV use occurs and that OHV riders must respect and observe those speed limits.

We believe that it is appropriate and necessary to work with government and all reasonable groups to try to find solutions to the complex and difficult issues surrounding OHV use in Nova Scotia.

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