The North Bay ATV Club wants its local members, and All Terrain Vehicle users from across the north, to be able to ride on public roads. It says the move would increase ATV tourism in the city, as well as fix what the head of the group calls an “annoying” situation.

The club launched a petition earlier this summer to try and prompt the change.

The petition – which as of Monday had received 157 signatures – asks North Bay’s parks and recreation department, city mayor Al McDonald, and other local politicians, to update the local by-laws “to keep up with the increase in ATV tourism in North Bay.”

'When I pay taxes, I pay insurance, I pay for a plate. I have to have a drivers licence and I have no access to the road.' - Nelson Fletcher, North Bay ATV Club

“North Bay is missing out,” said Nelson Fletcher, president of the North Bay ATV Club. “If we can get road access, it will make people more aware of the trails we do have out there.”

Many cities and towns in the northeast already allow partial ATV use on public roads. Sudbury has been allowing the vehicles on certain city roads since the summer of 2011 under a two-year pilot project. Elliot Lake also allows ATVers to ride on the roads, excluding the city’s downtown core.

Those cities are more attractive to ATVers because of the more flexible rules, Fletcher said.

Fletcher said the lack of road access in North Bay is inconvenient and irritating.

“There are other vehicles right now that currently aren't insured or aren't road-worthy that have access throughout and I find it very frustrating,” he said. “When I pay taxes, I pay insurance, I pay for a plate. I have to have a drivers licence and I have no access to the road."

In situations where ATV users are fishing on Lake Nipissing, Fletcher said those riders aren’t able to get gas, accommodation, or food because it would require them crossing a public road.

“Economically it [a by-law change] would have a huge impact,” he said. “If there are more people visiting to ATV, there are more people staying in hotels, buying gas, and in the long-term, it’s an increase in tourism.”

Potential problems

Fletcher said he acknowledges the backlash that often comes with ATV riding, including noise complaints.

“There’s no need for people to be on an ATV at night, so hopefully they’ll work on some fairly stiff fines so people who don’t follow the rules will be charged heavily for it.”

Ultimately, Fletcher said a change in by-law would likely mean an increase in membership locally, and also more ATVers coming from out of town to use their trails.

“The big thing about the petition is to show that people are interested,” Fletcher said. “A lot of smaller towns are having great success with tourism. We want that here.”