Residents clash on opening Creemore to ATVs
A public meeting was held in Stayner Wednesday evening to hear public input on the possibility of expanding ATV access in the Creemore area.
The meeting was attended by about 75 people who appeared to once again be evenly split in support and against.
The meeting was held in review of Clearview Township’s Off-road Vehicle Bylaw 20-71, to seek public opinion on options including creating a permit system to give off-road vehicle drivers in the settlement areas of Creemore and Dunedin direct access to designated approved OFATV trail. Other options presented were to open all municipal roads except where safety and environmental sensitivity was a concern, or to maintain status quo, meaning to stick with the prohibited zone south of County Road 9 and west of Airport Road.
Township staff outlined the options and the considerations needed for each option.
For example, the township only employs two bylaw officers who are often not on duty evenings and weekends so council would have to consider how a permit system would be enforced.
As part of the review, staff is proposing that fines be approved in order to better enforce the bylaw, whatever the outcome.
At the outset an attendee yelled out, “Why were we segregated in the first place?”
When Stayner councillor John Borderick raised the issue of opening access to all township roads back in July of 2020, a compromise of sorts was reached when former Creemore councillor Thom Paterson and the Creemore and Area Residents Association, among others, proposed taking a ward-by-ward approach, essentially banning them in Creemore but allowing them elsewhere (off-road vehicles are not permitted on county roads and provincial highways).
This issue was raised again last year by former New Lowell councillor John Lamers in response to requests from residents who said they wanted to access trails without having to trailer their off- road vehicles.
“There are a lot of people bitching about the four-wheelers who don’t live in Clearview Township,” said Creemore resident Bob Ransier, who said he has an ATV but can’t get out of Creemore with it. “If you are going to allow bicycles on the road you should allow ATVs. I call that discrimination.”
Former councillor and Lavender Hill Road resident Marc Royal said he is not in favour of segregation and finds ATV users to be respectful of the rules of the road.
“Permits are unmanageable and unnecessary,” he said to applause.
Creemore resident Samantha Margis said she can’t understand why the topic of ATV access is given a disproportionate amount of council’s time compared to other topics.
“This is not about inequality or segregation,” she said. “This is about living in an environmentally sensitive area and the restrictions that come along with it.”
“I don’t know why this is still a debate and why it gets dredged up year after year,” said Margis.
Gord Zeggil came to council’s defence and called for a compromise.
“Council is doing a great job,” he said. “They are here for us.”
Mayor Doug Measures and Margis then began challenging each other to a follow up conversation as Zeggil and Margis continued to face off at the mic.
Creemore resident Russell Poste said, “[The Niagara Escarpment] is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. There are only 19 in the world,” adding that likely 99 per cent of off-road vehicle operators are law abiding people who care about the environment. “How do you control the one per cent?”
Unlawful off-road vehicle use and the destruction of nature were the two biggest points of contention, although the noise issue was also raised.
Examples of off-road vehicles in the river, chewing up trails and impacting the natural environment and residents raised concerns about the criteria used to evaluate the environmental sensitivity of roads – the Garden of Eden Road for example.
“ATVers in general, we don’t want to ride on the roads. We want to get to the trails,” said Central Ontario ATV Club president Alain Pominville.
He said members work with the County of Simcoe to maintain trails in county forests and strive to educate their members that it is against the law to drive in waterways and speed through town. He said the riders breaking the law are likely not members of the club.
A Collingwood resident came to the microphone a couple of times to defend ATVs saying the air going into his tailpipe is dirtier than the air coming out and called up ground pressure data from Wikipedia and reported that wheeled ATVs exert two psi compared to a stiletto heel which exerts 471 psi to which the mayor quipped, “Sounds like a girl from Durham” and that there was “good logic in that.”
Jim Campbell said he just had to respond to the air quality claim joking that if the speaker really believes that he invites him to “wrap his lips around the tailpipe.”
“Around the world, things are going in the wrong direction,” said Campbell. “It’s time to take a step back. I would love to see council take steps to preserve nature. We should not lose sight of that big picture.”