ATV debate prompts public engagement

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During a long and winding discussion on ATV access in the so-called restricted zone, Councillor John Lamers withdrew his motion to allow for a substitute motion from Councillor Thom Paterson to re-engage the public on proposed permitting to allow residents in the southeast corner of Clearview to gain access to trails and services.

The current ATV bylaw restricts off road vehicles in the areas of Creemore and Dunedin. Lamers brought the conversation back to the council table on Sept. 12.

“Ever since we moved this in 2020 I have had numerous complaints from locals and people in the area and they were all upset about being segregated from Clearview Township, not being able to ride their ATVs so this council and the next council will have to work hard with the OPP to better patrol the areas as we move forward to open up Creemore along with the rest of Clearview Township,” said Lamers.

“We’re inviting people into Creemore and out of Creemore to get gas, shopping, visit the local stores in town. All it’s going to do is increase the popularity of Creemore to tourist people,” said Lamers.

Other council members questioned why Lamers would bring forward a proposed amendment having heard no complaints themselves.

“I think generally the feeling throughout the township is that the bylaw is working It was a fair assessment of what access was to be given and there really isn’t any changes or any indication from those users, that we know of, that would require a review,” said Paterson. “I am trying to understand the motivation.”

Councillor John Broderick, who has been a proponent for off road vehicle access, said he wants to open access in the restricted areas because he is concerned about “othering,” which he said is a form of discrimination.

“There seems to be a lot of confusion and a lot of fear. Folks are afraid of the unknown. What we’ve seen around the municipality though where ATVs are allowed is huge acceptance. They are not the boogeyman that people seem to think they were,” said Broderick.

He tabled an amendment to initiate discussions to also advocate for access to all county roads within the township. There wasn’t enough support for the amendment so it failed.

Councillor Robert Walker said he has not heard from any residents asking for change. He also couldn’t get enough support for his motion to defer the bylaw amendment until May so that the newly elected council could consider it.

“When we decided on this bylaw we had a very long, painful discussion with residents, with staff and a very strong debate at this council table to come up with what we have now,” said Walker. Deputy Mayor Barry Burton called Lamers’ motion flawed and said it was inappropriate to bring it forward this close to an election even though it is within his rights to do so.

He said the there are no trails in that area because of Niagara Escarpment Commission protected lands, the Creemore Nature Preserve and other sensitive lands that are off limits.

He said he suspects the report about the low number of ATV related complaints that prompted Lamers’ motion is also flawed because people are underreporting infractions to the authorities, believing it to be a waste of time.

“I think there are a lot more infractions happening than we realize,” said Burton. “I think it’s too soon to be looking at this. We worked hard to come up with a compromise.”

At the end of the discussion, the motion tabled by Paterson and seconded by Lamers passed. It directs staff to initiate a public engagement with regard to proposed permitting options and bring back a report recommending the required amendments to bylaw 20-71, including a special exemption permitting options for those residents residing in Creemore and Dunedin requiring direct access to the designated approved OFATV trails with a report due back to council in May 2023.

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