Dave Ryan stood before a full gallery in the council chambers last week to give a short presentation on what he believes to be a necessary addition to the town’s regulations.
The presentation gave the public and the council members a brief overview of why a by-law is needed, why fines are required and how much fines would be for various offences.
“I got a lot of feedback from the community regarding people using ATVs in an unsafe manner,” said Ryan. “Especially in the walking trails.”
He cited public safety and protection of property as two of the main reasons he felt Hay River needed a by-law.
The by-law mimics the GNWT’s Act which council thought may not be the best for the town.
Mayor Kelly Schofield raised the issue of the age restriction which would be seen in both the GNWT and Hay River legislation.
All ATVs and snow machines will only be able to be operated by someone over the age of 14 which Schofield warns could be seen as a problem.
He said riders under the age of 14 would be able to drive out “on the lands” outside town limits but should the need to refuel arise, it would be illegal for that rider to go to the gas station because they would be on property within town limits.
The bylaw would also require all snowmobiles and ATVs to be plated and insured.
Coun. Bernie Langille stated that he thinks that the only people in town who would be punished by the by-law are the honest ones who would actually stop and hand over papers if asked to.
Keith Dohey was an avid user of ATVs in town, and he does not believe that the by-law will change how people use their machines.
“I agree with Coun. Langille on this one for the most part,” he said. “The only people who will stop are people who are not really breaking the law anyway.”
“I agree that some people drive like idiots in town, but a by-law won’t stop that. I would not argue that every ATV should be plated and registered. That way when you report an ATV it can at least be traced to someone. Other than that, I think spending a bunch of time and money on a by-law is a total waste.”
He believes that the time and effort should be spend on education instead.
“I think when you have proper education on safe use of ATVs they can be an awesome way for recreation,” he said.“I understand where they are coming from, don’t get me wrong, but it won’t work. They should promote safe operation instead.”
But there are some residents in town who believe that Hay River could benefit from the regulations.
Shaun Demarcke is an avid power machine user who would like to see some structure for ATV and snow mobile use.
He said that he was unable to attend the information session at council, but believes what they were proposing is a step in the right direction.
“I do think they should have a by-law on ATVs and sleds,” he said.
“I don’t think quads should be driving on the highway. They are made to be in the trails and the ditches, not the roads.”
Demarcke also agrees with the age restriction.
“Especially if they are riding alone,” he said. “No one that young should be riding alone.”
If council decides to go through with the by-law, they will hold a public consultation before the finalized draft is passed.