Let’s limit where motorized vehicles roam

Active Trails Whitehorse Association (ATWA) is a registered group of Whitehorse residents who have a common interest in protecting and promoting non-motorized trail networks and associated greenspaces in Whiteho

Active Trails Whitehorse Association (ATWA) is a registered group of Whitehorse residents who have a common interest in protecting and promoting non-motorized trail networks and associated greenspaces in Whitehorse.

Our name was inspired by the City of Whitehorse’s Official Community Plan (OCP), in which active transportation is defined as “any form of human powered transportation,” such as walking, skiing, using a wheelchair, cycling, skateboarding, etc.

The many benefits of non-motorized trails include increased physical activity and green tourism, increased property values and safer trails. Non-motorized trails provide affordable low-impact outdoors recreation near our neighbourhoods and reduce fossil fuel usage. Non-motorized trails are much less costly to install and maintain than motorized trails.

ATWA is committed to collaborating with organizations and residents in the community of Whitehorse to establish an equitable and sustainable trail network. We are very grateful to the Yukon Conservation Society for the support they provided during our formative stage.

ATWA originally organized after the passage of the new 2012 Snowmobile Bylaw which, to our surprise and disappointment, allows snowmobiles on non-motorized trails, although the OCP and trail plan call for non-motorized trails to be separate from motorized trails, and survey results indicate strong public support for separate trails. We will be working on addressing this issue in the near future.

The new ATV and snowmobile bylaws allow off-road-vehicles (ORVs) to drive along streets to access out-and-away trails. We support the designation of some motorized out-and-away routes leading to suitable backcountry trails as a way of reducing conflicts among user groups. However, we are very concerned about the ongoing pressure to designate motorized trails throughout subdivisions’ greenbelts as shortcuts to out-and-away trails. This defeats the trail plan’s intent. We urge the city to think long-term and consider that, with a growing population, increased motorized use of neighbourhood trails will result in unsustainable impacts and costs. It is for those reasons that other small northern communities, such as Terrace, B.C., have banned ORVs from their city limits, areas equivalent to Whitehorse’s urban containment boundary.

We are currently providing input on trail designation in various areas of Whitehorse, monitoring environmental damage caused by ORVs within Whitehorse and helping to find ways to prevent the illegal use of ORVs on the Millennium Trail and its footbridge. We also plan to hold walking events.

If you would like to join us in our discussions or have specific concerns related to city trails and greenspaces, please attend our next meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, from 5:15 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Whitehorse Public Library meeting room. One of the main topics will be the current trail survey conducted by the city for the East Yukon River area (i.e. Riverdale area).

For more information contact us at: activetwa@gmail.com, or visit our website www.activetwa.org.

Dorothy Lebel

Director, Active Trails Whitehorse Association