That the best solution to a perceived problem of off-highway vehicle noise and abuse is mutual respect, was a conclusion reached at a community meeting Aug. 14 at the Aylesford Community Centre.
Aylesford resident Fred Huntley, who said he has issues with the noise and speed of ATVs travelling along the abandoned rail corridor, called the meeting.
In a leaflet he distributed door-to-door inviting local residents to gather, Huntley said he wanted to find solutions to “an out-of-control issue.”
Huntley said he believes concerned residents should complain to the RCMP.
“I called about three weeks ago,” he said. “My wife and I had company, and our conversation was interrupted several times by noisy vehicles.”
Others in the audience said they felt the issue could be better addressed through education and awareness, and letting users know their noise and speed, and the times of day or night they drive, might not be acceptable to all residents.
More than 50 people attended, including representatives from the Department of Natural Resources, Kings District RCMP, the Annapolis Valley Trails Coalition and the ATV and snowmobile communities, as well as a number of village residents who live close to the abandoned rail corridor.
Coun. Wayne Atwater and chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan represented Kings County. Chairman Jon Carey and Rick Balsor were there from the Aylesford Village Commission.
Before the meeting, Carey said the village “has had no complaints” about ATV use, but the commission is aware there are concerns, and was planning to address the situation at its next meeting. The commission also plans to ask police to increase patrols.
“Your problem people are local people,” said department of natural resources off-road enforcement officer Shawn Blackbird. In striking a balance between responsible ATV use and the peace of mind of residents, “you have to look at what’s best for your community.”
Gary Cameron said, “seven or eight machines in the community are causing the problem.”
He said it all comes down to respect for ATV users driving their machines in a responsible manner and for the peace and quiet of residents.
“This is a good start tonight,” Cameron said. “We need solutions. If we want something for our community, we need to show respect for both sides.”
Rick Jacques of the Annapolis Valley Trails Coalition agreed there were two sides to the issue.
“I’d like to see people sit down at another meeting and talk about solutions, things you would like to see,” he said. “There’s already a management group managing the trail. They should be part of any solution.”
Education, respect part of solution
Different communities, Jacques said, have come up with rules and regulations for trail use.
“Some have speed limits. Some have time of day restrictions.
“When you start to educate the community,” Jacques added, “on what you think is acceptable, you’ll find a lot of people will come on board. It’s not much work to put up a speed sign,” but users need to respect it.
ATV users, Sandy Cameron of DNR said, “have to be part of the solution.”
Mike Trinacty, regional representative for the province’s department of health and wellness said, “our goal as a department is to keep Nova Scotians active.”
Development of a multi-use trail system is part of the department's mandate.
“The first thing we need to do is build a respected facility," Trinacty said. “There are parts of the trail that are developed, or are being developed, but we don’t have a respected trail yet. We need your help to make that happen.”
Trinacty commended Huntley “for bringing people together to discuss the issue.
“It’s only about eight per cent of users that are the problem,” Trinacty said. “We need to all work together to find a solution.”
Huntley said he was pleased with the turnout and discussion He would have liked to see more residents who felt ATV use was a problem.
“I went door-to-door,” he said. “There seemed to be a lot of discontent.”
A second meeting is planned, but no date was available at press time.