AMHERST – Glen Hudson sees a time when Cumberland County could become a destination for all-terrain vehicle riders. Before that can happen, though, a few roadblocks have to be overcome.
Hudson, the president of the Cumberland County Riders, and Cobequid OHV Club president Faron Young recently met with Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin to talk about their efforts to give all-terrain vehicle operators access to services in towns and communities across the region.
“We’re hoping the province will get things in gear to give us access to trails for the point of connectivity, access to goods and services like gas and hotel accommodations and food. Also, riders need to be able to get around obstacles that legally we can’t get around or it’s cost prohibitive to get around,” Hudson said. “In some cases using the side of the road for a short time would be beneficial.”
There are several hundred kilometres of trails across both Cumberland North and Cumberland South, but they are not connected. Hudson said towns like Oxford and Amherst are supportive of what they’re trying to do and improving connectivity is on the provincial government’s agenda, but it’s moving at a very slow pace.
He feels Amherst’s location at the centre of the Maritimes could make it an attractive destination for ATV riders. Berlin, N.H. is a town the same size as Amherst. Each year, it attracts approximately 12,000 ATV enthusiasts to festival at nearby Jerico Mountain State Park. Hudson said a similar event in Amherst could provide an opportunity for hotels, restaurants and other stores. However, he said, access to the town is limited by the Trans-Canada Highway at one end and by the fact services are at the other end of town from the other trail system that comes off the marsh.
His group has asked for a pilot project that would allow ATV riders to cross the highway using the Nappan Road overpass. He said this road is ideal in that there are no on or off ramps, local traffic density and there’s a service road that runs to it.
Hudson said Oxford is an example of where the trail system works in that riders can get to the Irving and the Parkview Family Restaurant and Inn from the trail system that’s at the edge of the community.
It’s against the law to ride an ATV along a public street or roadway in Nova Scotia, and while riders can get across secondary roads they are not permitted drive on or beside them. Riders are also prohibited from crossing the 100-series highways.
Presently, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are the only provinces that don’t allow access to the side of the road. In Ontario, parts of the road are designated, while Sackville, N.B. is working with the province there to provide access to a key piece of road infrastructure in the town.
“We’re licenced and we’re insured and quite honestly we don’t drive our machines any differently than any other location across the country,” he said. “There’s nothing we do differently, but yet it’s such an involved process to get anything to change in Nova Scotia.”
For things to change, three government departments – including Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Natural Resources and Environment – would have to work together to develop an access plan.
“Technically we could leave Amherst and with some changes in the law we could drive through the Advocate via the trails. Where else in the world could enjoy the scenery of the Bay of Fundy and the Northumberland shore all on the same day while riding your ATV. It’s a tremendous opportunity for rural areas in terms of tourist dollars,” Hudson said. “The issue is things like the Trans-Canada prevent those connections from happening. The railway can also be a challenge because you need a crossing and they are only in certain areas.”
An independent economic impact study completed by Smith Gunther Associates Ltd. reported in 2015 that Canadians spent $6.9 billion on activities directly related to ATVs and recreational off-highway vehicles (also known as side-by-sides).
Hudson said his group will continue to lobby for change, but it will also be working to educate the public over misconceptions or stereotypes associated with riders.