It’s always interesting to write for effect and see what comes back at you, and Ken Taylor of Trails Only Yukon Association (TOYA), in his response to my initial letter, did not disappoint. Using the standard tactics of putting words in the mouth of another, Taylor managed to avoid addressing some difficult issues.
Sir, I was not gleeful when I wrote, I was expressing dismay. I was prepared to be a TOYA supporter but everything the group has proposed after their formation has pushed me away. That’s because of the issues you didn’t address, such as the impracticality of the solutions posed by TOYA. I personally believe that solutions should be effective, not window dressing.
I appreciate your explanation of the Faro photograph and can understand riders feeling remorse for their actions. However, I’d be interested how many of your photographs and anecdotes of damage stem from ATV riders. Is this a case of NIMBY in the wilderness? The ends justifying the means? At the moment, I think I’ll only dial my concern down to hypocrisy-lite.
Mr. Taylor, you claim that I have attacked the messenger. However, TOYA has set itself up not only as a messenger, but as a saviour, by proposing a proscriptive set of rules that we would have to follow. You also stated I didn’t use my intellect to consider the problem. Let’s do a little intellectual exercise now by comparing the measures proposed by TOYA and the Yukon Off-Road Riders’ Association (YORRA).
TOYA would establish a coercive set of regulations limiting ATV use to designated trails and altitudes, backed by legislation and enforcement. This would require several steps, and if you have any experience with planning, Yukoners can be touchy about their trails. It’s not going to be the quick solution TOYA seems to desire.
First, TOYA is only addressing a particular tool, not the actual issue of damage. Isn’t this a secondary way of achieving a goal? To start, you’re going to have to establish the extent of the problem with a current trail survey, to justify the effort. Then come some definitions of wear versus harm Ã is a 20-foot mud hole acceptable?
Fifty feet? What vehicles are captured? Argos? Snowmobiles?
A huge effort would be required to map existing trails, and another one to define what trails are okay and which are off-limits. The consultation around this is going to make Peel planning look noncontroversial.
Next comes the regulation and penalty formulation phase, which TOYA would have include licensing and ATV registration. Whoops, more consultation, time consumption and cost.
Finally, the Yukon doesn’t have the means to enforce such regulations, so TOYA seems to be relying on the public to be Rookie Rangers and report wrongdoing. However, that requires the reporter to have the trail map, a GPS and camera, and the judgement to know if Buckwheat is 500 metres beyond where he is supposed to be. I’m not confident that I’d be capable of doing that, knowing that it’s still going to be my word against Buckwheat.
Mr. Taylor, do you see this bureaucratic morass being completed in less than a decade? Politicians are going to be leery of this one, since 5,000 ATV riders are a significant voting block.
By contrast, the YORRA suggestion cuts to the heart of the matter by making “scarring the landscape” the focus. This will attract a lot more sympathy, and since YORRA wants to educate instead of forcing people, it’s going to be much more publicly and politically palatable as well.
This method dispenses with the time-consuming trail surveys and relies on some simple definitions and relatively easy consultation. Even enforcement using the public is enhanced, if I see Buckwheat tearing up a virgin wetland, I’m not going to have many qualms about reporting him.
Another difference between the organizations seems to be their co-operative nature. TOYA has been quickly dismissive of any suggestions not put forward by them, such as education, which they claim to be ineffective.
I hope the people responsible for education campaigns, such as not drinking during pregnancy, don’t hear about that, since they were only able to achieve a societal shift, to the point that watching a woman imbibe while pregnant just seems wrong today. Smoking regulations would be nowhere without education making them acceptable. There are lots of other examples.
Locally, the Klondike Snowmobile Association is a good example of a hardworking, dedicated group that used education and peer pressure to good effect in changing some views of snowmobiling. The KSA raised the bar, and YORRA is suggesting the same thing.
Mr. Taylor, you stated that my “notion of honesty does not pass the smell test.” I hope you’re not referring to the way that dogs greet each other, because if so, you’re on your own. Instead, I’m guessing that you’ve called me a liar, although you don’t say what I might have been lying about.
Sir, I honestly believe that TOYA gets kudos for raising this issue, but then promptly rode down a dead end trail of good intentions into a swamp of your own making. While claiming regulations would be a quick fix, you would have us engage in a process that would be long, difficult, and be continually high-centred.
YORRA has chosen some solid high ground and put forward a common-sense suggestion that has a chance of gaining political traction and wider public acceptance. I think Yukoners are capable of choosing which group and set of ideas appears to be better to work with and makes more sense, if this issue goes forward with government.