Snow machines can continue traversing any of the trails mapped out in the capital city’s Whitehorse North trail plan.
Council confirmed that on Dec. 12, with a 6-1 vote to defeat a motion put forward by Coun. Kirk Cameron to designate two trail areas as off-limits to snow machines.
One of the trails is already in place, off of MacPherson Road running past Roderick Place in the MacPherson subdivision, while the other is an area near the intersection of the Alaska Highway and North Klondike Highway where a loop trail is being planned.
The existing trail is designated as non-motorized, and the future trail is planned to be non-motorized as well.
However, under the city’s snowmobile bylaw, snow machines can use non-motorized trails unless the trails are specifically named in a section of the bylaw that outlines specific areas snow machines can’t use. A bylaw amendment required is anytime the city wants to add a trail to the list.
It’s an issue that’s come up a number of times for the Active Trails Whitehorse Association, which continues to call on the city to make changes that would also require snow machines to be on designated motorized trails only.
In his most recent presentation to council on Dec. 5, Keith Lay of the association described the situation as “simply ludicrous.”
“It is also time-consuming, expensive, and lacks common sense,” he said, going on to argue if council opted to look at the bylaw, changes should be made to “end the confusion associated with the definition of so-called non-motorized trails, improve safety for all users, improve protection for our trails, and reduce city costs.”
In bringing his motion forward, Cameron pointed to the many residents who use trails for walking, hiking, cross-country skiing and other non-motorized uses, suggesting setting the two trails aside to completely non-motorized use would help balance the interests of all trail users.
“To take these two fairly insignificant parts of the north trail plan and set them aside to no motorized use is not a big burden or impact on the snowmobiling and multi-use community,” he said.
Others on council, however, noted the trail plan was just adopted earlier this year, following a lengthy process with extensive involvement from the community, including a survey, public meetings and input via email. If a change in designation is being considered for the trails, then the city should be consulting on that before council votes on it, a number of council members argued.
Cameron replied by pointing out the bylaw process already has consultation methods built into it with residents able to address council as it moves through the three readings. Others, however, maintained the need for more consultation if the bylaw was being opened on the matter.
Coun. Ted Laking said that while he isn’t necessarily opposed to adding trails to the bylaw that would be off limits to snow machines, he would want to ensure those changes came out of a wider consultation and that the north trail plan so recently adopted wasn’t abandoned.
As Mayor Laura Cabott said, there may be a number of trails in the city that residents don’t want any motorized vehicles on.
“But we haven’t done that consultation and the consultation that we did for this area, the North End, has resulted in this plan as it is,” she said. “So I do struggle to support this, especially when we’ve already heard from citizens,” she said “But again, I support where the counsellor (Cameron) is coming from, but just not through this motion tonight and in particular, not just ear-marking the north trail plan, so I won’t be supporting it.”
In answering questions from council, city staff also said it would be quite unusual to designate a future trail in the case of the proposed trail loop before it has been built.
“In this situation, it’s a bit of a cart before the horse in terms of a trail planning exercise,” Krista Mroz, the city’s director of community services, said.
Following the lengthy discussion, Cameron’s motion was defeated with Cameron raising his hand as the lone vote in favour.
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