As the City of Whitehorse continues to seek input on its proposed new trail plan, one local group is calling on officials for bylaw changes to make non-motorized trails free of motorized vehicles in all seasons.
In a written submission presented at Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 5 meeting, Keith Lay, who heads up the Active Trails Whitehorse Association, argued the city should end the confusion he said exists with the term “non-motorized trail.”
“The city is currently accepting feedback on the 2020 draft trail plan,” Lay stated. “As such, this is the perfect time to ask city council to amend the now eight-year snowmobile bylaw to reflect the ATV bylaw, and prohibit snowmobile operators from using non-motorized trails, greenbelts and open spaces.”
Lay went on to note there’s only a select number of trails that are truly for non-motorized use throughout the year and outlined in the snowmobile bylaw.
“As a result, many trail users are under the mistaken belief that all non-motorized trails are free from motorized use in winter,” Lay wrote. “This creates confusion and may lead to user conflict.”
For any trail to be designated as non-motorized all year, the trail first has to be designated by the city as non-motorized with the snowmobile bylaw then requiring an amendment to add the trail to its list of non-motorized routes.
Lay argued the snowmobile bylaw should be amended so that snowmobiles would not be permitted on any trails designated as non-motorized thereby eliminating the need to add it to a list in the snowmobile bylaw.
“In fact, designating trails as non-motorized (summer and winter) would become unnecessary,” he said. “The only trails that would need to be designated would be those that accommodate both motorized and non-motorized users.”
The change would provide clarity, he said, and also protect greenbelts, open spaces and non-motorized trails.
He pointed out the proposed trail plan highlights the need for consistency in policies and bylaws.
“Changing the snowmobile bylaw as suggested would not stop motorized users including snowmobilers from asking the city to change the status of a non-motorized trail to that of a designated motorized trail,” Lay wrote.
While Lay provided his input via a written submission as a delegate to city council, others can also through the online feedback form the city has made available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/COWtrailplandraft to respond to the proposed draft plan, which is also available on the city website.
At an earlier council and senior management roundtable, recommendations from the draft plan were highlighted with parks and community development manager Landon Kulych noting the focus of the plan is how to best manage the approximately 850 kilometres of trail within the city.
Among the recommendations in the draft plan would be the continued work to finish the remaining neighbourhood trail plans that were started out of the 2007 trail plan, ongoing integration of First Nations languages and traditional place names in partnership with local First Nations into trail signage and names, improved mapping along with printed copies of local trails and an etiquette guide aimed at reducing conflicts between trail users.
The draft plan also suggests the city explore a number of issues such as snow removal on trails and how electric mobility devices fit into trail use, though any action on those would depend on what comes out of looking at those issues and discussions with the public.
Residents have until Oct. 9 to provide input on the draft plan.
It’s expected a final plan document will come forward to council for adoption in late 2020.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org