Fenelon Falls to ban ATVs on a section of Victoria Rail Trail

Victoria Rail Trail Photo by Shutterstock/Locomotive74

ATV operators may have to change up their route when riding through Fenelon Falls, Ont. next summer.

During its September 27 regular meeting, the Kawartha Lakes’ city council, which oversees Fenelon Falls, voted to ban motorized vehicles along the Victoria Rail Trail between Garnet Graham Park and Northline Road. The ban would be in effect from May to November.

Ward 3 councillor Doug Elmslie and mayor Andy Letham brought the motion forward while discussing an updated version of the city’s Trails Master Plan.

“It’s not unusual for me to receive five or more complaints a day from people living along there about ATV usage, about noise, about dust, danger to children and pets and walkers and bikers,” Elmslie said during the meeting.

He went on to explain that the section of trail in question, a narrow two-kilometre stretch that runs along Cameron Lake, has become more populated over the last several years. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic caused an uptick in ATV usage along the trail, resulting in safety concerns among residents.

Elmslie added that the town already has an alternate route in place that provides ATVs with better access to amenities, such as gas stations and restaurants. “We had explicitly given side-by-sides the option of travelling through Fenelon going up Cobourn Street, 121, and then either going to Superior Propane to access the trail or going along Northline Road and accessing it from Northline Road above,” he said.

Mayor Letham echoed Elmslie, saying: “This should be the easiest decision council’s had to make in the last four years. This is not a compromise. This is the best for both…It still gives [ATV users] access through Fenelon Falls. That’s really all they’re looking for, and it creates an area of safety and comfort for some of our residents living along the lake.”

Ward 5 councillor Pat Dunn opposed the motion, arguing that the detour would take traffic away from a few restaurants in Fenelon’s downtown core. He also suggested that the decision be pushed until after the October 24 municipal election when the new council would be seated.

Elmslie countered, pointing out that council was only voting to include the change in the updated version of the Trails Master Plan, and that the new council would have the ability to revisit the ban.

In the end, council voted against Dunn’s motion to delay, authorizing city staff to make the necessary bylaw changes to ban motorized vehicles along the Cameron Lake section of the Victoria Rail Trail.

The ban is one of several changes being made to the Trails Master Plan, a strategic document created in 2006 that outlines how trails in the area are maintained and used. As part of the plan’s overhaul, Claire Basinski, a consultant working for the engineering firm CIMA+, proposed a $7.2 million investment in Kawartha Lakes’ trail system over the next 20 years.

The funds, which would be raised through a combination of the Kawartha Lakes city budget and external funding, such as federal and provincial grants, and private donations, would be used to improve 11 trail areas:

  • Somerville Forest Tract
  • East Cameron Lake
  • Superior Road Trailhead
  • 3rd Concession of Somerville
  • Fenelon Falls Urban Area
  • Lindsay Urban Area
  • Bobcaygeon Urban Area
  • Emily Forest Tract
  • Pontypool Forest Tract
  • Bethany Area
  • Kawartha Trans Canada Trail.

Somerville Forest Tract, 3rd Concession of Somerville, and Lindsay Urban Area are expected to receive the most costly improvements with each budgeted at over $1 million in the 20-year timeframe.

“We really see this presentation and forthcoming information to be the final opportunity to consult and engage with yourselves and other stakeholders around what we hope to see as part of this master plan,” Basinski told council.

Changes to the Trails Master Plan started last year after council determined it needed an update. To ensure the views of all trail users were considered, city staff met with the Kawartha Lakes Parks Advisory Committee, the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail Association, the Green Trails Alliance, the Kawartha Lakes Snowmobile Club, and the Kawartha ATV Association.

Proposed changes include new trail signage, improved trail education, and outreach, and more efficient designs linking the trails.

Staff intend to present the completed Trails Master Plan to council early next year.

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