The Klondike Snowmobile Association is ticked off at Whitehorse’s new proposed sledding rules.
A draft bylaw, released to the public earlier this month, would require snowmobilers to take a mandatory training course, ban the machines from environmentally sensitive areas and increase fines for scofflaw riders.
That’s “excessive,” says Mark Daniels, president of the Klondike Snowmobile Association.
As Daniels tells it, for the past 30 years his members have been the driving force behind creating and maintaining Whitehorse’s trail system.
And, as repayment, they’re being taxed, regulated and having one-fifth of the city declared off-limits to snowmobiles.
“They’d double the amount of regulation for snowmobiling. They’d decrease the riding area permanently by 20 per cent. And they want to tax us, somewhere between $25 to $325 per person.”
The “tax” he refers to is the price of taking a proposed open-book test, to demonstrate each rider understands the city’s sledding rules and how to safely operate their vehicle.
City officials have suggested writing the test could cost as little as $25, but Daniels warns it could be closer to the fee to become a taxi driver, which was recently hiked to $75.
Several businesses also offer snowmobile training courses. These classes cost between $175 and $325, said Daniels.
Fines for various snowmobiling infractions have risen to between $150 and $500 from a typical rate of $50, said Daniels.
Sledders would be hit with a $500 fine for operating a machine without insurance, riding without a helmet, towing a passenger at night or in limited visibility, riding in a prohibited area after being once warned, harassing wildlife or pets, passing in an unsafe manner, crossing dangerously, interfering with a traffic control device and failing to stop or provide information for a bylaw officer.
Daniels contrasts this upper limit with fines doled out to cyclists, which don’t exceed $25.
“The lower the better,” said Daniels.
The association supports a mandatory helmet law. And they’re pleased council has backed off plans to ban snowmobiles from city streets.
That would have required snowmobilers to use trailers to haul their machines from home to trailhead.
But the draft bylaw would ban snowmobiles from streets between 10 p.m. 7 a.m. “These are burdens that aren’t put on anybody else,” said Daniels. “They’re particular to snowmobiling.”
So are rules against snowmobiles causing a racket in neighbourhoods or damaging the environment. Laws already on the books impose similar restrictions, said Daniels.
And Daniels questions whether all areas declared environmentally sensitive are actually threatened by snowmobile use.
Marshes may be easily chewed up by ATVs and trucks, but, once frozen, may be safe to snowmobile across, he said.
City officials will spend December reviewing comments received over the past month and revamping the draft bylaw. A revised draft will be presented to council in the New Year.
Contact John Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org