City to tune up ATV rules

Whitehorse is revamping the rules that govern all-terrain vehicle use. "Most people act responsibly," said Mayor Bev Buckway. "But we've seen some disturbing trends over the past few years.

Whitehorse is revamping the rules that govern all-terrain vehicle use.

“Most people act responsibly,” said Mayor Bev Buckway. “But we’ve seen some disturbing trends over the past few years.”

The bulk of complaints involve youth roaring around on ATVs near neighbourhoods.

A solution touted by the city is the creation of more out-and-away trails, to provide motorized vehicles access to the hinterland.

Riverdale, in particular, lacks any designated motorized trail – yet that doesn’t prevent ATVs from zooming around Grey Mountain and the Hidden Lakes.

Some hikers and bikers also say ATVs are causing environmental damage, leaving ugly ruts where they roam. It doesn’t help that there’s much confusion over which trails permit motorized vehicles.

Another problem with the standing rules is they don’t allow for ATVs to be driven on roads, even if the vehicles are being taken to the nearest trailhead.

All-terrain vehicles, under the law, include everything from dirtbikes to quads to eight-wheeled Argos.

Currently, all ATV riders within city limits are expected to have a driver’s licence, insurance and a helmet. But this is based on a contorted interpretation of territorial law, which calls for such requirements on highways.

Trails, strangely enough, are defined as highways under the Motor Vehicles Act. But only Whitehorse enforces this part of the law.

New ATV bylaws will have their own provisions, to make everything more clear, said Buckway.

The city aims to have a new bylaw in place by June of 2012.

The steps taken to get there will be similar to what was done to develop the city’s new snowmobile bylaws – a draft of which is expected to be made public in several weeks.

The city’s struck a task force to lead the review. It includes members from community associations, ATV enthusiasts, the Yukon Department of Environment and the Ta’an Kwach’an and Kwanlin Dun First Nations.

Notably missing is the Trails Only Yukon Association, which is calling for territorial rules to keep the vehicles off fragile alpine meadows and other sensitive environments.

It chose not to participate, as the organization is focused on protecting hinterland – not areas within city limits.

Also, in several weeks the city plans to begin conducting a survey, to suss out where residents stand on ATV regulation issues. Later, the city will hold a public open house to display some of the options.

While the draft bylaw will be developed by city staff, the final rules will be decided by mayor and council.

Whitehorse has more than 700 kilometres of trail. Of that, approximately 400 kilometres is considered multi-use, meaning motorized vehicles are allowed on it, said Doug Hnatiuk, projects co-ordinator for the city’s parks department.

Since 2007, when city council approved its trail plan, the city has tried to crack down on “rogue” trail builders, said Hnatiuk.

Enforcement of ATV rules is a tall task. The city has one bylaw officer whose job is to patrol trails part of the week.

Rather than dole out tickets, bylaw prefers to explain the rules to riders.

“The key is not enforcement,” said bylaw chief Dave Pruden. “The key is education.”

Contact John Thompson at

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history


Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Copies of the revised 2021-22 budget documents tabled in the legislature on May 14. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Liberals introduce new budget with universal dental and safe supply funding

The new items were added to secure the support of the NDP.

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters on May 13. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Cap on rent increases will take effect May 15

The rollout of the policy is creating ‘chaos,’ says opposition

Yukon News file
A 21-year-old man is in custody after a stabbing in Porter Creek on May 14.
One man in hospital, another in custody, after alleged stabbing in Porter Creek

A police dog was used to track the suspect who was later arrested in a wooded area.

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Most Read