The very mention of motorized vehicles using the Trans Canada Trail can stir a heated variety of emotions both for and against it. The fact is, at present, there is absolutely no law against the use of motorized vehicles on the Trail. While the Vermilion Trails Society (stewards of the trail from Brookmere to Osprey Lake) does not officially condone such usage, it’s members are committed to supporting the Directions and Laws, as they pertain to the Trail, by the Provincial Government and Trans Canada Trail. As stated, at present, there is no law that bans motorized usage of the trail. Bill Allinott, the Trail Maintenance In Charge and a Director of the society, on Jan. 11, 2012 spoke with Sgt. Clare of the Princeton R.C.M.P. who confirmed the matter had been looked into extensively and that there is no authority to enforce usage by A.T.V.’s or other motorized vehicles – that includes the portion of the Trail in the Town of Princeton. The usage of helmets, proof of insurance, a maximum speed of 20kph, and crossing of roadways (while riding a vehicle) that intersect with the Trail are enforceable.
Trans Canada Trail has eliminated funding in other provinces where the Law is permitting and promoting motorized vehicle usage, but to our knowledge there is no official direction to cut off funding to stewards of the trail that abide by the Laws pertaining to Trail usage in British Columbia, as long as the society is not promoting motorized usage. Until we see an official change of policy from the BC Government and Trans Canada Trail, it is the position of several of our Directors and members that we should maintain our current position with regards to usage, which is neither promoting nor forbidding their use. The recent adoption by the Town of Princeton to designate the urban portion of the trail as non motorized is premature in our opinion. While it’s intention was to ensure funding, and possibly deal with other issues, we agree with statements from the Mayor, Fred Thomas, that the decision was made in haste and more homework should have been done. The request to designate the trail non-motorized did not come from the Vermilion Trails Society, and is not the correct way to proceed in the opinion of several of it’s members.
The society members are stewards of 113 kilometers of trail which they receive funding for. The VTS section of Trail covers various areas – Thompson-Nicola Regional District, Town of Princeton, and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. The funding that is received from Trans Canada Trail covers all sections of the trail. Until the government of B.C. officially designates the Trans Canada Trail (in B.C.) as non-motorized, the 5 kilometers of trail (approximately) in the Town of Princeton will have no bearing on whether or not the Vermilion Trails Society receives funding.
Indeed, by informing the public of false positions on usage, it can lead to problems such as Mr. Hassell reported about a child being slapped for riding an A.T.V. on the Trail. Current signage present in many locations that show motorized vehicles other than snowmobiles being banned already creates friction. These signs are posted under the direction of Trans Canada Trail who oversees the trail system. Although they are not reflective of the current law, they mandate they be posted on the trail system. Encouraging the public to police the trail with a mistaken understanding of the Law encourages some vigilantism, which will only result in well meaning members of the public being charged for trying to enforce a law that doesn’t exist. This is a position no one wants to find themselves in, and one we personally would hate to see develop.
Education and common sense is the key to ensuring a harmonious usage of the Trail. When walkers, bike riders, or riders on horseback are present, slow down, pull over, or stop and show some courtesy. Hikers should walk single file when bikers approach so there is room for all to pass safely. Noise levels should be kept to a minimum to allow all users to be able to enjoy the natural wonder of the trail. The trail surface should not be damaged by irresponsible actions. Litter should be placed in trash cans or packed out. Dust should be kept to a minimum.
It is hard enough for our police to try to enforce the current laws to control discourteous drivers on our highways, so enforcing the remote and urban areas of the Trail would be a daunting challenge, especially when we are asking them to enforce a law that doesn’t exist. It is even more absurd for us to encourage the general public to police the trail against those who use it within the letter of the law. It is still important for the general public to observe and report anyone they see vandalizing the trail, or endangering others.
It is our hope that the Town will reconsider this issue and abandon their position until the Government of BC officially changes their designation on the remaining (and much larger) section of the trail outside of the Town of Princeton. We feel this will alleviate a lot of the tension that is being felt by the diverse user groups of the trail, as they will not be given confusing information that leads them to believe the rules of usage are different from what the law actually states.
This letter reflects the opinions of the undersigned in response to the recent information and actions that have resulted in the mistaken perception that the request to ban motorized vehicles came from the Vermilion Trail Society.
~ Ken Davidson, VTS Director
~ Faye Davidson, VTS Director
~ Bill Allinott, VTS Maintenance In Charge and Director