MLA comments on proposed Gravenhurst ATV bylaw

The following letter was sent to Gravenhurst council:

August 26, 2013


Mayor Donaldson and Council Members
3-5 Pine Ridge Gate
Gravenhurst, Ontario
P1P 1Z3

Dear Council Members:

Re: Staff Report PW015-12 – ATV use on municipal roads

The Muskoka Lakes Association has examined staff report PW015-13 – the development of a by-law to permit all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on municipal roadways.  We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this issue.

Many of our members enjoy using ATVs on their own properties.  The MLA is not opposed to reasonable ATV use that respects neighbouring property owners and environmental considerations. That said, we do not believe these vehicles are appropriate for use on all municipal roadways in Gravenhurst. 

We are concerned that the adoption of such a by-law would lead to:

  • Increased environmental damage – Destroyed vegetation in non-trail areas; increased erosion; damaged sensitive wetland habitats; generated siltation into lakes and streams; damaged fish spawning areas and impacted water supply sources.
  • Unwelcome noise – Municipalities across Canada have grappled with problematic ATV noise for years.  Often, Councils are forced to enact problematic noise by-laws to govern this issue.  
  • Trespassing – Trespassing is one of the most common complaints associated with ATV use.  The OPP frequently warns ATV riders against trespassing on private property – much of which occurs by accident.

Above all else, the MLA is concerned that by-law provisions enacted to deal with the above concerns nearly always fail.  Enforcement is certain to be a challenge.  The MLA took particular note of the recent presentation to Council by Sgt. Larry Butterfield of the Ontario Provincial Police.  We share many of Sgt. Butterfield’s concerns.

The MLA believes ATV users should have an opportunity for recreation that is not harmful to the environment or neighbours.  As such, we offer the following recommendations for Council’s consideration:

  • We encourage ATV enthusiasts to form clubs similar to local snowmobile associations and build trails to suit the recreational operation of their vehicles. This would minimize the impact on the environment and residents.
  • We support ATV access only on municipal roads that are associated with these trails.
  • We also note that staff report PW015-13 does not differentiate between off-road vehicles and ATVs.  We believe this distinction must be made clear.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this issue. 

Respectfully submitted,

Mike Langdon
President, Muskoka Lakes Association