Woodstock council approves long-awaited off-road pilot project

·3 min read

After a long wait, off-road vehicle riders can finally legally travel selected Woodstock streets.

At its Tuesday, Aug. 9 meeting, Woodstock council approved the third and final reading of the town’s bylaw outlining the laws and regulations surrounding the use of designated town streets for ATVs and quad drivers. The new bylaw took effect Wednesday, Aug. 10.

In a press release following the meeting, the town explained the law would allow licensed riders to operate their licensed machines “along Connell Street, Main Street from the intersection of Houlton Street (Route 103 and Route 165) to Connell Street (intersection of Route 550 & Route 165), King Street and Houlton Street (Route 103) from civic no. 164 to Main Street (intersection of Route 103 and Route 165).

During a council-in-committee meeting before the Aug. 9 council session, council members gave final approval to a pamphlet outlining the details of the new bylaw, including a map of designated ATV routes, regulations and frequently asked questions.

CAO Andrew Garnett explained Coun. Trina Jones and Tourism Director Tobi Pirie oversaw the creation of the pamphlet.

Jones explained the pamphlet would be distributed immediately as a mail-out and is available on the Town of Woodstock website. She added public works crews would begin on Aug. 10 to erect signage on town streets and trails to direct riders to designated routes.

Jones said the pilot project bylaw would be in effect from Aug. 10 to Oct. 30, noting council can rescind it at any time.

Woodstock Police Chief Gary Forward, who attended the council-in-committee meeting, said the town was proactive in making his officers aware of the bylaw.

Jones said the town would make copies of the pamphlets available for officers to hand out to the public.

Forward said Woodstock police would enforce the bylaw but acknowledged they would first emphasize education.

Responding to a question from Coun. Mark Rogers, Forward noted the new bylaw wouldn’t eliminate illegal off-road activity on Woodstock streets.

Rogers pointed out he had already talked to area residents who believe the pilot project gives off-road vehicles access to all town streets, including the Grafton Bridge.

The councillor asked Forward how officers deal with riders who refuse to stop for police, noting the bylaws state riders can be ticketed “if caught.” He said the term “if caught” concerns him.

“How can we catch them?”

The police chief acknowledged the problem, noting his force reported 98 instances of riders refusing to stop.

Forward called it a problem that’s hard to solve, noting police must consider public safety and liability. Unless the chase involves someone who committed a serious crime or police deem a threat of public harm, he explained, officers would not risk anyone’s safety to issue a $172.50 ticket.

Instead of a dangerous chase, Forward explained, police would opt for other investigative measures.

“There’s always going to be those who ignore laws,” he said.

Jones, who worked closely with the ORV committee members Forward, Pirie and Garnett, said time would tell whether the new bylaw reduces off-road infractions on town streets.

She explained that Quad NB and River Valley ATV Club were “extremely helpful” in developing the bylaw. According to information from other municipalities with such bylaws in place, Jone said that off-road riders are good at self-policing.

She said legal users understand ongoing illegal use puts their access to town streets at risk.

“If you abuse it, you lose it,” she said.

Following the council meeting, which gave final approval to the bylaw and immediate implementation of the pilot project, Garnett stressed the bylaw pertains only to streets within town limits.

For example, he said, the town regulations covering Connell Street end at the town limits just before the Trans Canada overpass. Beyond that point, he said, jurisdiction falls under the provincial government’s mandate.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun