Over objections, council votes to lease land to motorcycle association

Whitehorse city council's standing committee has voted to grant the Yukon Cross Country Motorcycle Association a 10-year lease on eight hectares of land across from the Yukon Energy LNG plant along Robert Service Way on May 8.

Whitehorse city council has voted to grant the Yukon Cross Country Motorcycle Association a 10-year lease on eight hectares of land across from the Yukon Energy LNG plant along Robert Service Way.

The decision, made during council’s standing committee meeting May 8, means the lease will go to a final vote May 23.

Councillors made the decision after much discussion from residents, who were concerned with noise, traffic and damage to green space they said motorcyclists might cause.

Council received six letters of opposition to the lease.

Riverdale resident Dorothy Lebel, said in a written objection she read before council that the noise from the off-road vehicles was “particularly irritating and much noisier than automobile traffic.”

“Often the dirt bike noise goes on for hours on end,” she said. “Such noise is not compatible with nearby residential and recreation areas.”

Lebel also submitted black and white photographs of damage she says ORVs and ATVs have done to green spaces south of the airport.

“Use of the area (by cross country motorcyclists) would create more noise problems for campers and trail walkers,” said Keith Lay, a representative for the Active Trails Whitehorse Association.

There are also liability issues to the city, he said, and was concerned that there was no plan by YCCMA to fence in and monitor the area “to ensure that non-YCCMA members will not have access to the bike park.”

Both Lay and Lebel said the leased area was not the appropriate place for the bike track and that the YCCMA should look for land to lease privately, beyond city limits.

“The basic idea here is to give the kids someplace to ride. It’s a legitimate sport and good exercise,” said Mike Beaman, president of the YCCMA.

“The track has been used in that area since the 1970s,” he said. “It’s at the end of the runway, there are no houses there.”

Another concern raised by residents was whether or not children would be permitted to use the track. Under the current city bylaw, no one under the age of 16 can operate a motorized vehicle inside city limits.

Beaman said they would be asking council to change the bylaw so kids could ride under the supervision of their parents.

“The bylaw is not very friendly to the kids,” he said. “We are hoping they will make an amendment to the bylaw to do things the way the rest of the country does.”

The YCCMA has approximately 100 members, he said, many of whom are families with children.

“We’re doing this for the kids,” he said. “The basic idea is to give the kids a place to ride.”

Coun. Betty Irwin was vocally opposed to granting the lease. She said she didn’t feel it was an appropriate place for the track and had concerns about the length of the lease.

“To enter into a 10-year lease?” she said. “No, I’m not in favour of this.”

Under the lease agreement, the city can cancel the lease, but must give the YCCMA 12 months notice.

Mayor Dan Curtis said that he himself lived in the area and that he heard the planes more often than he heard the motorbikes.

“We don’t want to demonize people who have motorbikes and ATVs,” he said. “I don’t think everyone (with a motorcycle) is trying to rip up the trails.”

“I in no way meant to give the impression that I ‘demonize’ anyone,” said Irwin. “ What I object to is that I don’t believe this is an appropriate place for these activities.”

“If someone is walking in a pair of sneakers there will be someone concerned in the community,” said Curtis. “We see the LNG plant right there — it’s not as if (the area) is exactly pristine.”

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com