A cautionary tale on development of the rail trail

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If you are a homeowner and live within at least at least a block of the proposed rail trail that will run through the towns in our county please take note: You will really regret not speaking out in the strongest terms to stop motorized rec. vehicles on the trail in your neighbourhood. Here’s why: We have been living on the equivalent of a multi-use rail trail for 15 years. We bought a house in the quiet village of Blakeney during the summer. The house is on the road that leads to the bridge but it didn’t occur to us that in the winter we would be on a snowmobile route. Now ATVS are added making it a year round problem.

This route is pretty non-negotiable as it allows off road vehicles to cross the bridge.  On any pleasant spring, fall, winter or summer day when we would like to putter around our garden, clear snow off the paths or walk across the bridge to the park we have to compete with these vehicles and it is really unpleasant. We have mostly stopped walking in the village due to the possibility of enduring some of these vehicles going by when we are out. Most riders are very respectful of pedestrians but the fumes and noise from their vehicles are just as bad even when they abide by the speed limits in the village. However, there are as you can imagine, lots of riders who are out for a joy ride and many travel in groups. If we are outside when these folks roar by we couldn’t for example hear anyone talking to us and it’s really nerve jangling. You can hear them coming long before they come and go. On busy riding days I don’t exaggerate when I say the fumes left in the village are like living by the Queensway due to the 2 stroke engine exhaust.

We are more inclined to enjoy walking in the woods and in the quiet of our little village but can understand the fun of riding ATVS and snowmobiles. We have family members who are huge fans. That isn’t our issue. The issue is how unfortunate it is to have to live so close to the noise and fumes of a route for these vehicles. They simply shouldn’t be driven near where people live and expect to have some peace and quiet in their neighbourhoods. This fact is compounded by knowing there are already hundreds of kilometers of trails already certified for these vehicles and they are well served.

Plus the FACT that property values are lowered when ATVs and snowmobiles travel on trails in proximity to homes: home owners in several jurisdictions have successfully had their property taxes lowered and others have sued their municipalities over the diminished quality of life and value of their homes due to this issue. One link to where a group of residents won a settlement is here:  http://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/features/tough-sledding/ in a 2005 article.

“In a November 2004 action a Quebec Superior Court judge awarded 600 residents of St. Jovite approximately $8 million in damages due to pollution and noise from snowmobiles. Residents of the municipality located north of Montreal in the Laurentians complained about the high volume and noise of snowmobilers on a nearby rail trail. The local municipal authority the provincial government and the regional snowmobile association FCMQ <the Federation des Clubs de Motoneigistes du Quebec> were all named in the lawsuit. But costs affected only the government entities.”

Here is another link where the Nova Scotia property assessment agency awarded property owners a 15% decrease in their property taxes because their ability to enjoy their property had decreased (noise, fume pollution and privacy) being adjacent to a multi-use trail: http://www.activetwa.org/trails–property-values.html

There must be a compromise whereby people in the towns don’t need to have their lives constantly invaded by the extreme noise and air pollution of motorized off-road vehicles.

Further to this : please note that a certain demographic of the these riders love to be out til the wee hours of the morning. Funnily, being woken up by groups of snowmobiles or ATVs roaring by at 3 in the morning is even more upsetting.

There is simply no way walkers, cyclists, cross country skiers, dog walkers, children, the elderly, the disabled etc should have to try and use this proposed amenity in our towns and villages along with Motorized Vehicles. It simply won’t work and is outrageously unfair. A compromise is needed so both groups are considered.

We can attest to how unpleasant and upsetting this all is. There is nothing we can do about it, except move, as we have contemplated numerous times. If you love your neighbourhood and your family’s quiet enjoyment of it, then please let the municipal and county councilors know LOUD and CLEAR! You will really be sorry if you are subjected to this traffic in your backyards. Believe me.

M. Reynolds
Blakeney, ON