by Doug Preece

Well, I guess it’s a done deal.  Lanark County councillors have voted for a mixed-used OVRT trail combining ATVs with active users (walkers, joggers and bicyclists) and using public funds to do so.

I think it is obvious that the two groups are looking for very different experiences while on the trail and that these experiences are incompatible.  Active users are looking for peaceful interactions with nature and enjoying the fresh air.  ATV users are looking for exhilaration.  ATVs produce noise and they are polluters.  The speed difference between active users and ATVs also can cause safety issues for active users. The noise, fumes and safety issues degrade the experience for active users.

The result of mixed use is a significant reduction of active users on the trail.

Now let’s look at where the funding for this ATV trail is coming from.

The majority  ($548,289.73) comes from a provincial fund — the Municipal Commuter Cycling Program — set up to reduce greenhouse gases and promote bicycling as an alternative to commuting in cars.

I don’t imagine the OVRT will attract many commuters. And with the granular M topping, it’s certainly not going to attract bicyclists with road bikes.

“The purpose of this program is to provide direct, dedicated, annual funding to Ontario municipalities to support the implementation of commuter cycling infrastructure to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto bikes for their daily commute or other frequent trips.”

“Recipients will be required to gather and submit data on the impact of their projects, including projected/actual users and GHG reductions due to the projects”

I will be very interested in what kind of data Lanark County is going to supply for justifying using funds ear-marked for bicycling infrastructure for essesntially an ATV trail.

The following is excerpted from the conclusion of a Nova Scotia study looking at the benefits (or lack of) of ATV usage and recommending against the use of public funds for ATV infrastructure.

“Given the dubious claims for economic and social benefits, and the absence of health and environmental benefits, there is little or no justification to suggest that recreational ATVing and snowmobiling can be a considered a public good warranting public funding and support. Neither can recreational ATVing and snowmobiling be considered a merit good (where there is shared benefit between private and public interests) as no public interest can be demonstrated. In falling short of banning recreational ATVing and snowmobiling outright as a consequence of their health and environmental costs, these activities should be considered a private good where all the costs and the provision of recreational settings should be borne by the private sector. The public interest is served only by appropriate regulation and enforcement.”