P.E.I. may open Confederation Trail to crossing ATVs

P.E.I. Transportation Minister Steven Myers is drafting legislation to allow ATVs to cross the Confederation Trail and use some of the province's clay roads.

'I think there's a big opportunity here'

There are some crossings of the Confederation Trail that have been in use for years, says the P.E.I. ATV Federation. (CBC)

P.E.I. Transportation Minister Steven Myers is drafting legislation to allow ATVs to cross the Confederation Trail and use some of the province's clay roads.

The Confederation Trail, part of Canada's Great Trail system, is built on the province's old rail beds and outside of the winter months is reserved exclusively for non-motorized vehicles.

The P.E.I. ATV Federation has been lobbying the government for the crossings. It says it is trying to create a province-wide trail system that could be a valuable tourism product, and it needs to be able to cross Confederation Trail to do that.

"It's not realistic to think that with a linear trail going tip to tip now, there's no way that we can develop our trails on either side of the Confederation Trail and not have to cross it," said federation president Peter Mellish.

"Some of the trail crossings that are there now have been used for 25 years, so we're just asking for it to be legal."

P.E.I. ATV Federation president Peter Mellish says having crossings on the Confederation Trail would allow the federation to connect its own trail system across the Island. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Mellish said his group is looking for 12 to 20 crossings.

There are some crossings on the trail that have been in use for 25 years, he said, but the federation wants to make them legal so they can be insured.

Province sees tourism potential

Myers said his department is planning a pilot project that would not include as many crossings as that, but he said he does see the tourism potential of expanding ATV trails.

"Any time you go over to New Brunswick in the fall you see trailers and trucks loaded with ATVs leaving Prince Edward Island," he said.

"I think there's a big opportunity here for Prince Edward Island. We have some beautiful scenery here and we have some great weather. We have long falls and sometimes we have early springs."

The Confederation Trail is reserved for use by non-motorized traffic from the spring through the fall. (Submitted by Cynthia King)

Myers said the crossings would be at least 20 kilometres apart and they would be gated to prevent ATVs from travelling along the trail itself, and to give trail users ample warning of the crossings. There would be a cap on the total number of crossings.

Opening up unpaved roads would also be a pilot project, he said. ATVs on the unpaved roads would have to be registered vehicles, and their riders would have to have a driver's licence.

"I would foresee us somewhere down the road opening all of those roads up, if this pilot works," said Myers.

"If the pilot doesn't work we'll shut it down and that will be the end of it."

'They don't need to go on the trail'

Island Trails has been lobbying against the change.

President Greg Mckee said the exclusive, non-motorized nature of Confederation Trail has been an important aspect of how it has been marketed, and has also been central to fundraising in the private sector for the trail.

Mckee said there are already lots of places where ATVs can cross the trail. 

"They can go underneath the trail, they don't need to go on the trail. We have 150 crossings across the province where they can go at intersections and bypass," he said.

Myers said he is mindful of the concerns, and he wants to create a system that works for everybody.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning


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