SACKVILLE, N.B. – Local ATVers are one step closer to being allowed to travel along Wright Street and Mallard Drive in Sackville.
Sackville town council voted unanimously this week to send a letter of support for the New Brunswick ATV Federation’s request to gain access to these two roadways. The letter will accompany the ATV Federation’s application to the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure as well as the Department of Justice and Public Safety, asking for an exemption from the law that prohibits all-terrain vehicles from operating on public roadways.
Council’s show of support is only the first step in acquiring final approval, with the ATV federation needing to gain approval from the two provincial departments before it would come back to council for a bylaw amendment.
Although several councillors voiced strong safety concerns about adding more traffic into the mix at the busy intersection at Wright Street and Mallard Drive, they also pointed out that ATVers already regularly travel through that area and so this will put more controlled measures in place for them to cross at the lights and drive those roadways.
“They’re already doing it. So why wouldn’t we put in place safety measures in order to make it safe for everybody?” said councillor Bruce Phinney.
ATVers want to be able to legally travel along Mallard and Wright, not only to get access to their trails but also to be able to use the services in that area - including the restaurants, gas stations, hotel and grocery store. They also propose to use the town’s Visitor Information Centre parking lot at the end of Mallard Drive as a loading/unloading area.
Councillor Allison Butcher, who was initially concerned about adding to the traffic in an already “high-traffic, high-congestion” area, said some ATVers are already using this area to gas up and get food so it will be beneficial to have more parameters in place.
“This is the ATV association coming to us because they’ve put some time and thought into a way to make it safer, a way to make a destination spot for vehicles to be left so they can unload their off-road vehicles so they can access the trail system,” she said.
“It means that it’ll be bringing revenue into our community and they’re going about it in a way that’s making sure that they’re making it as safe for everyone as they can.”
Butcher also pointed out that Sgt. Paul Gagne, head of the local RCMP detachment, has voiced his support for the ATV federation’s proposal.
That was enough to persuade councillor Bill Evans, who said during council’s discussion meeting earlier this month that the RCMP recommendation would be a key factor in his decision.
“If there’s a way we can do this that’s reasonable and the province can find a way to do that, if we can share the roads safely, then I’m happy to go along with that recommendation.”
– Councillor Bill Evans
Evans did point out, however, that if the ATV federation does gain the necessary provincial approval and the town decides to amend its traffic bylaw to allow access, it still has the ability to revoke it later on if the municipality finds the sharing of roadways is not working.
“We will have control of this,” he said. “If it turns out this is a really bad idea, we’ll be able to change our own bylaw.”
He expects, however, that the ATV federation will ensure their members follow the set parameters because “they have an interest in making this work.”
Councillor Megan Mitton, who said she was initially conflicted about the decision, mainly because of safety concerns at the intersection, said she was also put at ease by the RCMP’s support. She was also satisfied with the answers she received to several questions she had been asking over the past couple of weeks.
Mitton said there is not expected to be a significant increase in traffic with this change and she has been assured proper signage will be put up to guide ATVers along those routes.
“If it works out, I think it could be safer,” she said.
Sackville is not the first New Brunswick municipality to be faced with this request by the ATV federation.
“This isn’t something unique to our community,” said Jamie Burke, senior manager of corporate projects for the town.
So far, the province has approved the use of ATVs on roadways in a handful of municipalities and applications are pending in several other cases.
Burke said town staff were approached by the ATV federation in April of this year with the request, “to see if there was some interest in allowing ATVs in that section of the community.”
“They felt this was a way to regulate the crossing in a controlled way and it also has the potential as a community economic development tool,” said Burke, noting that ATVers regularly frequent restaurants, buy fuel and sometimes stay overnight.
Paul Branscombe, president of the Tantramar ATV Club, said allowing ATVers to travel those roadways legally, and having the ability to enforce the rules of the road, will help make it safer for everyone.
“I think a controlled environment using the lights is the way to go,” Branscombe told councillors at their discussion meeting on Oct. 2.
He also pointed out that this move could help the NB ATV Federation market Sackville as a destination with riders from across the Maritimes, as well as Ontario and Quebec.
“There is a major spinoff for tourism,” said Branscombe. “It’s a place for us to bring people in.”