It just takes co-op­er­a­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

The fa­tal crash in­volv­ing an all ter­rain ve­hi­cle (ATV) in cen­tral P.E.I. last week raises the is­sues of safety and ac­ces­si­bil­ity for ma­chine op­er­a­tors. ATV own­ers on P.E.I. face con­sid­er­able chal­lenges - their ve­hi­cles are not al­lowed on the Con­fed­er­a­tion Trail, a tempt­ing track that is re­served for walk­ers, run­ners and bi­cy­clists dur­ing the sum­mer, and for snow­mo­bil­ers in win­ter. Nor are ATVs per­mit­ted on road­ways.

With­out per­mis­sion from landown­ers, ATVs are not al­lowed on pri­vate prop­erty. Al­most 90 per cent of this prov­ince’s land is pri­vately owned, the high­est per­cent­age in Canada. The prov­ince is the most densely pop­u­lated in the coun­try – you can’t get very far in most ar­eas be­fore en­coun­ter­ing a res­i­dence or farm­land.

Some op­er­a­tors don’t do them­selves or other ATV driv­ers any favours by rac­ing noisy ma­chines at high speeds near homes. They can go al­most any­where, and un­for­tu­nately, that sort of ac­cess gets them in trou­ble as well. ATVs can be in­tru­sive. It’s not un­com­mon in some ar­eas of the prov­ince to see ATV driv­ers taunt RCMP and then race off where po­lice can­not fol­low.

Many of us judge those out­door en­thu­si­asts too harshly. The ma­chines are fun, and most times, nav­i­gate ar­eas out of sight and sound. A group of ATV’ers out for a fun run of­fers an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and also sup­ports ru­ral ar­eas. Na­ture can be ex­plored. It’s the sum­mer­time ver­sion of snow­mo­bil­ing, a win­ter pas­time that has earned wide ac­cep­tance and sup­port from the pub­lic.

At least five ATV clubs are in op­er­a­tion here which would em­brace the op­por­tu­nity to con­nect with each other, and at some point, cre­ate an Is­land-wide net­work. ATV sup­port­ers look long­ingly at neigh­bour­ing provinces; Crown lands in New Brunswick and Nova Sco­tia of­fer tens of thou­sands of acres and count­less ATV trails.

The P.E.I. gov­ern­ment sup­ports cy­clists and snow­mo­bil­ers. It can cer­tainly be more sup­port­ive of ATV own­ers and help them de­velop more trails and op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­joy their out­door ac­tiv­ity.

The prov­ince could pro­vide tax breaks to landown­ers who agree to al­low un­used parts of their prop­erty or farms to be de­vel­oped into ATV trails. Gov­ern­ment has an obli­ga­tion to help this con­stituency. It col­lects taxes and regis­tra­tion fees and must re­cip­ro­cate that sup­port. It should also en­hance safety train­ing cour­ses so tragic in­ci­dents like the one last week can be re­duced or elim­i­nated.

Leg­is­la­tion could be re­laxed to al­low ATVs ac­cess to more ar­eas to help with prob­lem rid­ers. For ex­am­ple, leg­is­la­tion could al­low ve­hi­cles to drive on some sec­ondary roads, or along clay and dirt roads where less ve­hi­cles travel.

The P.E.I. ATV Fed­er­a­tion is do­ing what it can. It has teamed with some ru­ral landown­ers to build pri­vate trails to help rid­ers stay off farm­land and the Con­fed­er­a­tion Trail. Us­ing th­ese trails also helps keep rid­ers safe and pro­tects agri­cul­ture and sen­si­tive ar­eas like wet­lands, shores and dunes.

There are ways to en­sure a peace­ful co-ex­is­tence be­tween ATV rid­ers and ru­ral Is­lan­ders. It just takes a lit­tle co-op­er­a­tion.

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