Shared snowmobile-pedestrian trail 'a recipe for disaster,' says group
Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail site of excessive speeding by snowmobiles, group says
A group of people living in Lanark County are calling for changes to the Ottawa Valley Recreation Trail that would see snowmobiles and all other motorized traffic redirected elsewhere because of excessive speeding.
David Frisch, spokesperson for the group Lanark Residents for Safe Trails, said the creation of a recreational trail "where you put passive users and motorized users [side-by-side] is a recipe for disaster."
The call for change comes after a collision between a snowmobile and a pedestrian last week on the trail, one that sent the pedestrian to hospital with serious injuries.
Frisch said members of the group have witnessed numerous instances of snowmobiles going well above the speed limit and other times driving straight through stop signs.
"It seems it's treated like an open drag strip. Like dragway park," Frisch said.
Get motorized vehicles off trail, says group
Over the years, several members of the group who live along the trail have taken it upon themselves to track the speeds snowmobilers reach.
They do this by using cameras on separate properties and calculating how long it takes to travel between the two.
Frisch said during one weekend in January, the group calculated the speed of more than 650 drivers. They found that 80 per cent of snowmobilers were going faster than the speed limit of 20 km/h.
The majority were going 40 km/h, he said, with some reaching up to 100 km/h.
"Sooner or later, someone's going to get hurt or killed," said Frisch.
"It's absolutely inappropriate to have that kind of traffic traveling cheek-by-jowl with pedestrians, and in a populated area with numerous intersections and stop signs and [children]."
16 warnings issued this year
Const. Joe Tereschuk with the Ontario Provincial Police's Carleton Place detachment said his unit is aware of complaints of speeding on the trail.
So far this year, officers have spent 165 hours patrolling areas of the trail where complaints have been made, Tereschuk said, issuing 16 warnings and charging one driver.
"The majority of people are abiding by the rules of the trail and they're riding safely," Tereschuk said, noting there are likely instances of people speeding where OPP aren't patrolling.
He said police will continue to monitor the trail and promote messaging around safe driving.
"It's not acceptable to drive your machine in a reckless [manner or at an] excessively excessive speed, and it's an easy situation to resolve by everybody just slowing down and running safely," Tereschuk said.
Investments in signs, radars and barriers
The trail is shared by all of Lanark County and any changes to how it's used would have to be made by all the local councils.
Carleton Place Mayor Doug Black, whose community includes part of the trail, said his town council is aware of the speeding issues.
"It's a small minority and it's always a small minority we have to address in government," he said.
Black said diverting motorized vehicles off the trail isn't on the table right now. He said the town has already made significant investments into making it safer, installing signage, speed radar and a barrier to separate vehicles and pedestrians.
"We are continuing to enforce to the best of our ability to make it a safe and pleasant environment for all users," he said.