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ATV pilot project in Weymouth getting closer to becoming a reality

Shown are ATV enthusiasts featured on the Digby ATV Club Facebook page. CONTRIBUTED
Shown are ATV enthusiasts featured on the Digby ATV Club Facebook page. CONTRIBUTED

Project would allow ATVs access to some highways

WEYMOUTH, N.S. - A pilot project to allow all-terrain-vehicles (ATVs) access to public roads in Weymouth could get off the ground in the coming months.

Kevin Lombard, president of Sou’west Nova ATV Association and Zone 1 director and liaison for the ATV Association of Nova Scotia, said a pilot project could begin in early winter.

“They’re just working on the rules of the road now and things like speed limits, and what’s going to be required like safety things. It’s close,” said Lombard.

The pilot project was announced last spring by Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan. Other communities including Milton, in Queens County, and Walton, in Hants County were also slated for pilot projects.

The Nova Scotia government was hoping to begin the pilot projects in the fall but Lombard said more details needed to be ironed out first.

“There was a lot more to it than what some people thought at the beginning, said Lombard. To be honest, they were overly optimistic in the beginning because there were a lot of changes and everyone wants these pilots to succeed. So you’ve got to set up the things…like safety and enforcement. So it’s coming down to the nitty-gritty.”

Lombard said getting access to certain roads is important because ATV drivers are sometimes forced to illegally drive on the highway to reach areas of trail that aren’t connected. One such area is right around downtown Weymouth, where drivers would use the highway to get to trails beginning in St. Bernard.

“If we want to grow this, it’s going to be important to get some connections to the trail system because people want to ride. They want to be able to get onto their machine and ride opposed to truck everywhere they go.”

Other provinces such as New Brunswick are also working on allowing ATVs access to some highways and roads within municipalities. Lombard said the Nova Scotia government has studied the work of other jurisdictions

“They’ve done their homework and they’re trying to make a long list that will work here for us, noted Lombard.

“I talked with the City of Edmundston and I know they’ve had it for a while. They’re quite a bit bigger than any of the pilot locations in Nova Scotia…They told me…it’s working there and it’s better for everyone because people can access the trail system and they’re not worried about having to speed down the road to get to the other trail.”

Lombard said details such as how fast will ATVs be allowed to go on roads and what part of the road they can drive on are being evaluated.

“You want a good set speed limit that’s not going to create problems…Other things you’d be looking at is interaction with cars. Where do you ride? Do you ride on the paved surface, do you ride half and half or do you ride on the shoulder?”

Lombard said proper signage needs to be worked out, along with the type of paperwork every ATVer will be required to ride on public roads.

Lombard said the Sou’west association has 200 members and there are thousands of ATV enthusiasts across the province. According to an independent study conducted by the association, the ATV industry generates $162 million per year in Nova Scotia alone.

Lombard said if the pilot projects in places like Weymouth prove to be successful, this opens the doors to connect to other parts of Western Nova Scotia.

“Yarmouth isn’t part of the pilot project but I have no doubt that eventually once these pilots are successful and they open up that we’ll be able to expand and have Yarmouth.”

Lombard added that if all concerns are addressed correctly, linking ATVs across the province is possible.

“We don’t need a lot- we just need a few connector trails because there’s a fairly vast trail system…We’re not asking for every road in the province. We’re asking for roads to give us surfaces so that we can access gas, accommodations and then we can access the trail system.

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