Island ATV federation pushing for tip-to-tip trail system
Federation lobbying provincial government for Crown land access, funding help
P.E.I.'s ATV federation is calling on the provincial government to help develop a legal, tip-to-tip trail system for riders.
The federation says in the past three years, its club members have created more than 200 kilometres of designated ATV trails around the province, through agreements with private property owners.
But federation president Peter Mellish says to connect those trails and the many still to come, they need access to some Crown land, including unpaved public roads, which are off limits to ATVs.
"There are a lot of dirt roads that were there long before the paved roads that linked P.E.I.," explained Mellish. "We want to be able to utilize those roads to link the trail system. You need to connect the dots, and those dirt roads may be the dots."
Government says 'maybe'
P.E.I.'s Transportation Minister Paula Biggar says her government has no plans to surrender all its Crown land to ATVs.
But provincial transportation, environment, and tourism officials have held a few meetings with the federation already, exploring how government can help without impacting the environment and other land uses.
"On a case-by-case basis, maybe there are non-essential roads where we can work with them to connect their trails better," Biggar said.
Mellish says the federation's also lobbying government for financial support, to help cover the cost of trail development and maintenance.
To date, he says those costs have been covered through trail pass revenue, fundraising, and private donations.
'A lot of work, a lot of hours'
Local club volunteers, like JP Gallant, have done all the leg work — from creating agreements with private landowners, to keeping the trails rideable.
"Almost every weekend, we're doing work on our trails," said Gallant, the president of the Evangeline ATV Club.
"It's a lot of work walking through the woods — 'Is it dry enough to put a trail through there?' And then there's physically going in, cutting wood down in some places. It is a lot of work, a lot of hours."
Mellish says his federation is aiming to create an additional 100 kilometres of designated ATV trails each year. He says that will be a challenge with a volunteer workforce and limited funding.
"The highways of P.E.I. are not made with volunteers," he said. "And our trail system can't be made only with volunteers. It takes resources to do that, and our volunteers have limited resources."
Mellish is hoping to meet with government officials again before Christmas, to continue making his case for an Island-wide trail system.
"At the end of the day, we want to develop a tourism product where we can invite people from off-Island to come here and experience P.E.I. like no other way," he said.
"It's a product that's undeveloped. It's not marketable yet. It's close in some areas, but it's not quite there yet."