PEI

Should snowmobilers be allowed on heritage roads? Group launches petition against proposed legislation

A P.E.I. environmental group is striking back against proposed legislation that would allow snowmobiles on seasonal and heritage roads.

'They've been an annoyance in our area for a long time,' says Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action

Proposed legislation from the P.E.I. government would give snowmobilers the right to be on back roads. (Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium/AP)

A P.E.I. environmental group is striking back against proposed legislation that would allow snowmobiles on seasonal and heritage roads.

Sharon Labchuk, the coordinator of Earth Action, launched an online petition to protest Bill 52, which would amend the Off-Highway Vehicle Act, giving snowmobiles the legal right to be on back roads.

"They've been an annoyance in our area for a longtime,"  said Labchuk, who lives in Millvale, P.E.I. "We can't even go out into our own back yards and use these roads."

Confederation Trail should be enough: Labchuk

She said the exclusive rights to Confederation Trail should be enough for snowmobilers.

"It's unfair, and people who ski and snowshoe should have rights to use some of this public land as well."

The Princetown Road is a back road in Millvale, P.E.I. (Sharon Labchuk)

She is hoping the petition will encourage government to reconsider the bill.

"They are good exercise going up and down those hills," she said. "They are beautiful, canopied roads." 

Backroads key connector routes: P.E.I. Snowmobile Association

The P.E.I. Snowmobile Association said the back roads are key connector routes for snowmobiles to move off the Confederation Trail and into towns, and that snowmobilers have been using them for decades. 

"The unplowed seasonal roads are definitely a major part of our entire Island wide trail system," said association president Dale Hickox.

Hickox points to the benefits of the snowmobile industry on P.E.I. in the winter. The Celebration Ride in February 2014, pictured here, brought more than 100 people to the Island. (Submitted by Dale Hickox)

He said government approached the snowmobile association with the amendments to the legislation.

Share the road?

Snowmobilers aren't looking for exclusive access to the heritage and seasonal roads, said Hickox — the roads can be shared.

He pointed out the snowmobiles often groom the trails for skiers.

"We make the trail level and smooth for them," he said.

The P.E.I. Snowmobile association says the economic impact of the industry should not be overlooked. (Submitted by Dale Hickox)

But Labchuk said sharing the road doesn't work.

"It's really not safe to be on them with snowmobiles hurtling around the corner," she said.

Amendments to the off highway vehicle act are expected to be discussed in the provincial legislature this week.

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