Woodstock council still weighing off-road-vehicle options

·5 min read

The slow journey to finalize a pilot project allowing off-road vehicles access to Woodstock streets and to make a final decision about allowing non-winter motorized traffic on the Trans Canada Trail may take a partial step forward at the Tuesday, Oct. 28 council session. But only a partial step.

After a lengthy discussion about the issue at Woodstock's committee of council meeting at the AYR Motor Centre on Tuesday, Oct. 21, council appears destined to separate the street and trail issues before making any further decisions or recommendations.

During her report to council, Woodstock Tourism Director Tobi Pirie — a member of the off-road-vehicle ad-hoc committee with Director of Planning Andrew Garnett and Woodstock Police Chief Gary Forward — discovered council members reluctant to move forward on both issues. Town staff also found diverging opinions among councillors about off-road-vehicle use with town limits.

Speaking on behalf of the ad-hoc committee, Pirie outlined the committee's question-and-answer draft submission, which clarifies frequently asked questions regarding the town's pilot project to provide off-road vehicles limited access to town streets.

The town would publicly release the document, with council's approval, to describe the purpose and methods of the pilot project to go into effect from April 18-to-June 19 of next year. The committee's submission for approval also outlines plans for the Trans Canada Trail, particularly the portion which runs along the St. John River from the Woodstock Farm Market to the washed-out train bridge in Upper Woodstock.

Coun. Trina Jones questioned whether council approved the trail portion of the staff's publication plans.

"I think we have to strip the two apart," she said.

While she agreed to the Q and A portion dealing with the pilot project surrounding street use, Jones said the council has not decided on future trail use.

She explained council is currently considering leasing the Trans Canada Trail through Woodstock from the provincial Department of Natural Resources but needs time to confirm the details of such an agreement.

"What are our costs and responsibilities going to be if we take over the lease," she asked.

Deputy Mayor Amy Anderson agreed with Jones, noting council members need to know the long-term financial demands of any lease agreement.

While not a member of the ad-hoc committee, Woodstock Director of Recreation and Community Services and AYR Motor Centre manager Kelly Foster-Hewett asked to address council on the issue.

Foster-Hewett said town staff need to understand council's vision before they can effectively move forward with the issues regarding future use of the trails.

"We can only chase our tails for so long," she said.

Foster-Hewett asked council members what direction they wanted to go.

"Come up with a plan," she said. "We can go in any direction council wants to go."

Jones agreed with Foster-Hewett, saying, "we're still trying to get answers."

Coun. Norm Brown said he knows what he wants to see as far as the Trans-Canada Trail is concerned.

"I want to see a dual purpose trail," he said.

Brown, Anderson, other councillors and staff discussed the possibility of creating side-by-side trails, one for pedestrians and cyclists and the other for motorized traffic, between the Farm Market and Riverside Court. Anderson said a similar trail system works in Campbellton.

Brown suggested, and most council members agreed, having town staff review setbacks and easements on the property along the trails to determine if parallel tracks are feasible to allow pedestrians and motorized traffic to use the course safely.

Mayor Art Slipp suggested council officially address the issue at the Oct. 26 regular council session, noting the Q&A document involving the street-use pilot project appears set to go. In the meantime, he said, the town could look at the trail easement to see if enough land is available to create a dual trail.

While most council members appeared supportive of the pilot project involving street use, Coun. Randy Leonard, as he has often in the past, expressed strong opposition to off-road vehicles on the streets.

"I'm not really in favour of four-wheelers on the streets," he said. "I do not want them on Connell Street, not on any street."

Later, during the discussion of the trail, Leonard again asked fellow council members to consider the type of use for which ATVs and Quads are designed.

"I want you to remember they're off-road vehicles," he said. "They're designed to run off-road."

Chief Forward took the mike to remind council why it created the ad-hoc committee, noting the police were responding to numerous complaints about off-road vehicles on town streets.

He said the public safety issues involved in those complaints remain. He explained the public must understand the pilot project under discussion is simply a test to find the best options. Forward said he supports council members taking their time to find the right solution.

"Taking your time to make the right decision is the right decision," he said.

The police chief said no decision would eliminate all public safety issues, noting people who drive illegally on the streets would also drive illegally on the trials.

"What we need are rules for law-abiding citizens,' he said.

The off-road issue is expected to be on council's agenda for the Tuesday, Oct. 26, council session.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

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