Sackville’s town council has voted unanimously to support a request from the New Brunswick All Terrain Vehicle Federation to allow ATVs on select town streets.
ATVs would be allowed on Mallard Drive and Wright Street if the request wins provincial approval as well.
Jamie Burke, senior manager of corporate projects with the town, said the proposal would let riders park at the Sackville Visitor Information Bureau at one end of Mallard Drive.
If allowed to cross Main Street on an ATV, riders could access restaurants, gas stations, a grocery store, an NB liquor store, a hotel and finally the ATV trailhead at the far end of Wright Street.
Burke said that council’s vote on Tuesday means the mayor will write a letter of support for the ATV federation’s request for access.
“Essentially what that does is starts the process.”
The federation would file the letter with the province, and both the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Department of Public Safety and Justice would need to sign off on the proposal before the motion came back to council.
If that happens, town council could write a new bylaw or amend an existing one to allow ATVs on the two roadways.
Council consulted Sgt. Paul Gagné, Sackville RCMP detachment commander, on the issue. He said that after after consulting other RCMP members and local residents, he got the impression ATVs are accepted in the community.
“The use of ATVs in town is known to be pretty responsible,” he said.
Gagné said he has no knowledge of any collisions involving ATVs and he’s received few complaints about the use of the vehicles within town limits.
“It sounds like a responsible organization trying to provide a framework around an activity that is already happening,” he said of the federation’s proposal.
But Gagné has concerns.
“Legally, ATVs can be operated by children, and that’s the only area where I might have some concerns, but at the end of the day, it’s not our decision.”
Under the current rules in New Brunswick, children aged six and older are permitted to drive smaller, less powerful machines. Drivers under 16 are supposed to stay on closed trails or ride where a property owner has given written permission.
Roger Daigle, president of the New Brunswick All Terrain Vehicle Federation, said children between six and 16 years of age need to take a safety course.
“They have to be accompanied by a guardian and that guardian has to be 19 years old or older and has to have taken the safety course also.”
He said he doubted many parents would take their children on any town streets.
According to Daigle, ATVs need to be registered and insured and all riders must wear helmets.
He said his group asked for street access in Sackville to increase services for its members and to bring business to the town.
“We just want particular streets, roads that will take us to a motel, restaurant and gas station, and that’s all.”
Sackville would not be the first community to grant ATV riders such access.
Daigle said ATVs have legal access to specific roads in the communities of Kedgwick, Tide Head, Plaster Rock, Shippagan and Hillsborough.
Other communities have written letters of support for access and are waiting to hear back from the province, including Bathurst, Grand Falls, Saint-Francois, Le Goulet, Dalhousie, Belledune, Perth-Andover, Blackville, Bouctouche and Sussex.
If the province does grant limited street access to ATV riders, and the town continues its support, Burke said Sackville council can still revoke the road rights of ATV drivers.
“In the event that it turns out to not be working for our community, council can revisit that at the proper time.”