City prepares simplified snowmobile rules

Whitehorse city council is preparing to simplify the bylaws governing the use of snowmobiles within the city. As things stand, snowmobile riders are covered by two outdated pieces of legislation.

Whitehorse city council is preparing to simplify the bylaws governing the use of snowmobiles within the city.

As things stand, snowmobile riders are covered by two outdated pieces of legislation – one of which dates to 1975 and still refers to the vehicles as “motorized toboggans.”

Those two bylaws – the Protected Area bylaw and the Parks and Recreation Area bylaw – would be rolled into a new set of rules, with council expected to give first and second reading to the draft Parks and Public Open Space bylaw next week.

At Monday evening’s committee meeting, bylaw chief Dave Pruden said the merger would make it simpler for everyone.

“At one point in time if you were operating an ATV, you had to look at the protected areas bylaw, the motorized vehicle act and the ATV bylaw,” he said.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is that people know the rules in each respective bylaw.”

The city conducted an online survey in February during the lead-up to preparing the draft bylaw. Over 160 people responded. Some highlights included that trail users should take more personal responsibility, environmental protection is important and bylaws need to be clear, enforceable and reasonable.

Much of the feedback received focused on trail use and motorized activities within the city’s green spaces, according to the administrative report.

Some of the major changes in the Parks and Public Open Space bylaw include clarity and expansion of the prohibited activities in the parks and public open spaces, and additional rules around trail use.

Examples of activities that are prohibited without prior permission include loitering, erecting signs, setting off remote controlled devices or taking part in a ceremony.

It’s also prohibited to perform tricks or stunts on trails or any park or public open space.

There are also tighter restrictions for vehicles in parks and public open spaces, as well as clearer enforcement provisions along with steeper fines for violations.

Bylaw officers will also have the power to seize or impound vehicles if an operator fails to produce valid identification, or if any vehicle has been abandoned.

Offenders of the bylaw can face fines of up to $10,000.

The Active Trails Whitehorse Association also suggested a few more changes to the draft bylaw.

It would like to see snowmobiles denied access to greenbelt areas, open space and non-motorized trails.

“This is very confusing to citizens,” they wrote in a statement, “when they see a sign that says ‘motor vehicles prohibited’ they expect that to be the case, and can become both confused and upset when snowmobiles are seen operating in such areas.”

As it stands, the snowmobile bylaw provides snowmobiles access to travel on roadways to get to the nearest permitted area, which includes green spaces, trails and motorized multiple use trails.

All-terrain vehicles, considered motorized vehicles, are not permitted in these areas under the ATV bylaw.

Another ATWA recommendation is to enforce the prohibition of both ATVs and snowmobiles within city limits when “snow conditions deem such use to be detrimental to our trails.”

The draft Parks and Public Open Space bylaw is scheduled to receive third reading on July 13.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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