Three men, who say their ATVs are an important mode of transportation, stand outside town hall following the April 25 council meeting> They were not happy with council’s decision to not allow street access. From left are Chris DeLong, Doug Pearson an Daryl Sparks. Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Off-road riders will not have legal access to Woodstock streets anytime soon. 

In a 7-1 decision at the Tuesday, April 25 meeting, council accepted the ad hoc ORV/ATV special committee’s recommendation against a by-law allowing ATVs and quads use of town streets. 

Mayor Trina Jones, who sat on the ad-hoc committee with Woodstock Police Chief Gary Forward, Tourism Director Tobi Pirie and CEO Andrew Garnett, said the public could find the committee’s comprehensive final report on the Town of Woodstock website as of Wednesday, April 26. 

Woodstock clerk Laura Gaddas read the committee report’s recommendations into the record before the council discussion and vote. 

After a detailed study of the issue, the committee felt the negatives outweighed the positives at this time, with the drain on police resources and provincial control of designated highways as crucial factors. 

The committee ended its report by acknowledging its decision would not sit well with the off-road community and supporters. 

“Though we know this decision may be disappointing to ATV owners and enthusiasts, I hope you can accept that we had to make the decision based on what we felt was best for the community at large.”

The nine-page report provided an overview of the pilot review process and what the committee heard and acknowledged the many contributions before offering 10 detailed recommendations. Three appendices provided police stats, online survey results, and a River Valley ATV Club letter. 

Mayor Jones began council discussion of the report by noting, “the committee’s role is done.” 

She said the rest is up to council members. 

The report’s first recommendation revolved around police enforcement, noting the town force would need to shift to enforcement from education which was its focus during the pilot project, which ran from August to October last fall. 

The committee determined the Woodstock Police Force would need additional resources to meet demands. 

The report noted the town lacks the funding to provide more officers, nor does off-road-vehicle access to the streets rank among the top three reasons for additional police resources. 

“In particular, the police force is starting a new dedicated Street Crime unit this summer, and concerns were raised that enforcement of ATVs could potentially hinder this new effort and its focus,” the report explained. 

The report added that police noted the impact of riders who refused to stop for officers. 

Three off-road-vehicle users who attended Tuesday’s council session said removing access to town streets would not reduce, and possibly increase, the impact of riders refusing to stop. 

Doug Pearson, who said he uses his ATV to travel to work and back daily, said riders will now remove the license plates from registered bikes and run from police. 

He said he doesn’t own a car, and his ATV was his only means of travel. He said a cab ride from his Hodgdon Road home to work is $35 one way. 

Chris Delong, who said his girlfriend uses one of his ATVs to travel to work at A & W, suggested unauthorized use of town streets will continue, but without any regulations. During a recent trip to Fredericton to pick up his wife from the hospital, he said he saw three ATVs on city streets waving to police officers as they passed them. 

Daryl Sparks said he couldn’t drive a car because of his muscular dystrophy, so he uses an ATV to get around. 

“It’s a lot safer than my mobility scooter,” he said. 

All three men said their machines are primarily used for transportation. They also agreed ATVs are designed for trails, not streets. However, they explained, Woodstock’s trail system makes that impossible. 

Quad NB regional director Bob Stokes said he couldn’t comment on the decision as he has yet to read the committee report. 

“(It) would be interesting to know town reasons for this as it appears not to support completed studies, data and government documentation or requests, such as tourism,” he said. 

The committee’s 10 recommendations tackled several issues and requests from the off-road community, many dealing with police enforcement and provincial, not town, jurisdiction. 

The report noted recommendations to limit street and road access to daylight hours added stress to police resources. 

It pointed out off-roaders’ interest in access to the Grafton Bridge and Route 105 in Grafton falls beyond town jurisdiction. Beyond the safety concerns or traffic on the bridge and intersections, the report noted Woodstock Police Force does not have policing jurisdiction in Grafton. 

The committee also noted the streets included in the pilot project, Houlton, Main and Connell, are designated highways under provincial jurisdiction. 

The report pointed out that the province’s Off-Road-Vehicle Act does not provide access to provincially owned roads, nor rules or regulations surrounding municipalities. 

“We support the work that has been done in both Newfoundland and, most recently, in Nova Scotia to establish road access guidelines on Provincially regulated roads that include guidance and specifications for municipalities to follow and build on,” the report stated. 

Councillors Norm Brown, Will Belyea and Deputy Mayor Mark Rogers referred to the province’s jurisdiction during council discussion. 

“The province should drive this, not the community,” Brown said. 

Coun. Jeff Bradbury was the only council member to oppose the committee’s recommendations. 

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “Those not following the rules are the bad apples.” 

He said off-road traffic brings tourism to the community. 

“I don’t think there’s any reason not to continue with the pilot project,” Bradley said. 

Jones said she understood Bradley’s point of view. 

“I know where you’re coming from,” she responded.

Jones said tourist dollars might come in the future, but they aren’t significant enough at this time to sway the policing, safety and jurisdictional issues. 

The report provided hope for off-roaders looking to access gas, food and lodging in Woodstock by suggesting possible access from the trails beyond the Petro Can station along Connell Street to Sobeys. 

Jones stressed, however, several conditions must be met before that could happen. 

The mayor and council members accepting the committee’s recommendations agreed the issue may be addressed in the future. Still, the process will be long, and the provincial government must be involved.

By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 26, 2023 at 15:34

This item reprinted with permission from   River Valley Sun   Woodstock, New Brunswick
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated

Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated