Right now, off-road vehicles (ORV) are not allowed on municipal streets south of County Road 8 in the City of Kawartha Lakes.
But the ORV Task Force will make recommendations to council in early May for a two-year pilot program to allow ORVs and ATVs on most rural roads, with the exception of those deemed unsafe by city staff, and on some of its municipal roads in Lindsay and Bobcaygeon as connecting routes to the trail system.
“Right now we have it in half the city. Everything to the north of Road 8 is opened and it works,” said Ward 5 councillor and ORV Task Force chair Pat Dunn.
“I think we should explore it. Lindsay and Bobcaygeon are bottlenecks. To get them (ORV operators) through those communities, we’re going to have to travel on roads.”
Dunn tells Global News he supports the creation of the pilot program.
“I think it’s completely appropriate. This is a growing sport and it’s time to treat everyone in the city (equally),” Dunn said.
Dunn said he believes allowing ORVs on municipal streets will help the City of Kawartha Lakes economically with access to downtown.
Dr. Peter Petrosoniak is a Lindsay physician and is a director on the Kawartha Lakes Green Trails Alliance, a not-for-profit organization to promote a compatible system of sustainable trails within the municipality.
He says he and the Green Trails Alliance are not anti-ATV but don’t agree with ORV and ATV access on municipal roads.
“It is an accepted form of recreation. What we’re against is having them just carte blanche have access to all roads in the City of Kawartha Lakes,” he said in an interview with Global News Peterborough on Thursday.
“It’s an unsafe practice on the roads. It’s been shown in various jurisdictions. Public Health Ontario, in 2019, came out and said that ORV/ATV hospitalizations and ER visits are increasing as ATV use is increasing. They’ve pointed out our Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has the fifth highest of the 34 health units (for hospital visits from ATV incidents).”
Petrosoniak says that’s likely because ORVs are already allowed on roads in Haliburton and Northumberland, which are part of the health unit’s jurisdiction.
“Peterborough, which has less road use, has less ER visits and hospitalizations. We’re afraid this (allowing road use) will increase road injuries to both ATV people and others on the roads, such as pedestrians and cyclists,” he said.
Some exceptions recommended include not allowing municipal road access off-season from Dec. 1 to May 1, which is the same as the trail system.
They would only be allowed on city roads between 7 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.
All operators of ORVs will have to possess a valid Kawartha ATV Association (KATVA) or affiliate membership, a minimum of a valid G2 or M2 driver’s license, valid vehicle license plates and insurance and must meet all requirements under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act Regulation 316/03.
If council greenlights the plan, the recommended travel route through Lindsay to connect the southern trail head to the northern trail head, and vice-versa would begin on Logie Street in the southeast end and weave through the town to Thunder Bridge Road in the north end.
ORVs would not be permitted on any roads that are not approved connection routes to the main travel route as well as a few routes in and around the downtown.
Operation of an ORV on any street in Lindsay not approved would be prohibited unless travelling directly to or returning from approved routes.
In Bobcaygeon, ORVs would be permitted on all roads except Bolton Street between Canal Street and King Street in the downtown.
Twenty-six people spoke at a public meeting hosted by the task force on March 19.
The number of those speaking for and against the plan was evenly split.
The task force has an online survey open until April 19 to gauge support for the recommendations that will go to the Committee of the Whole on May 4.
UPDATE (April 12, 2021):
Residents opposed to the plan have created an online petition.