Evangeline ATV Club facing fine, public backlash after clearing trail through woods
'They don't need this big equipment cutting through our brooks and streams'
The Evangeline ATV Club is facing an environmental fine and opposition from some property owners, after clearing a trail through the woods using a bulldozer and excavator.
"They don't need this big equipment cutting through our brooks and streams," said Kim Baglole, who has a home in Southwest Lot 16, next to a section of the trail cleared by the club. "They should've come through with axes and chainsaws, and cleared a path wide enough for four wheelers. It's for four wheelers, not transport trucks."
According to club president, JP Gallant, the club got written permission from three land owners to clear the two-kilometre-long, six-metre-wide trail through their wooded properties, which will become part of the area's designated ATV trail system.
As part of the project, P.E.I.'s Environment Department said it issued a permit to the Evangeline ATV Club to install three bridges over brooks that cross the trail.
But the province's executive director of climate change and environment, Todd Dupuis, said after some people in the area raised concerns about the work taking place, "authorities were called in, who determined they weren't following the terms of the permit."
Dupuis didn't elaborate on how the terms had been violated, saying it's a Justice Department matter. No one from that department would provide specifics either.
'A mistake on my part'
According to Gallant, his club was issued a $1,000 fine for installing culverts instead of bridges at two of the brook crossings, and for not taking all the required measures to limit soil runoff into those brooks.
"It's a learning experience, a mistake on my part," he said.
But some property owners in the area worry those mistakes could mean trouble for the environment.
They say after a recent heavy rainfall, the water running in brooks along the trail and out into a creek all turned red — something they say they hadn't seen prior to the ATV club's work.
"The topsoil has been torn. They pretty much tore the trail apart," said Baglole. "So now in the heavy rains, all this top soil is going to wash into that creek, which is going to go into the Sou'west River, and then the Grand River very quickly."
"We only have one creek, and when it's filled in, it's gone," added Doug Campbell, a neighbour of Baglole's. "There's fish in it. There's birds in it. When they can't see their food in the water, where do they go? Do they starve to death?"
Club working to stop runoff
Dupuis said because spawning season is still a couple of months away, soil runoff now isn't particularly concerning for fish populations.
Still, his department has given the club until Sept. 15 to take measures to stop more soil from running into the brooks.
"In and around the water course, we want to see them putting mulch down and straw bails in any ditches they made, just to slow the water down, and to stabilize the surface until the grass grows again. And I understand they're well underway doing that," said Dupuis.
But Campbell and other community members are hoping to put a stop to ATVs using the trail all together.
They walked the trail with Environment Minister Brad Trivers, Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, and Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly this week in hopes they might step in.
They're also working on a petition, which has dozens of signatures from people in the area.
Baglole and Campbell said on top of their environmental concerns, they're also worried about ATVs riding the dead end, public clay road they live on — Nebraska Road.
Club president Gallant said riders will need to use that road and a couple of others to get from their new trail to another trail that's already developed.
'More wear and tear on the road'
Campbell said if that's the case, people living along those roads should have been informed about the club's plans, and asked to share their concerns before trail construction started.
"That's noise, more traffic, more wear and tear on the road," said Campbell.
"What are those ATVers going to do to our road? My husband's in a wheelchair. He needs that road as intact as we can keep it. This is his community too," added Baglole.
As it stands, it is against the law to ride ATVs on public roads.
"We just take a chance and drive down the side of the road.... And like I told them, if we're going to be doing that and you don't like it, I guess you'll just do like other people would do, call the cops and the conservation officers and they'll check things out and patrol it," said Gallant.
Transportation Minister Steven Myers has already said he's considering opening up the Island's unpaved roads to ATVs as part of a pilot project.