ATV enthusiasts tick off Sylvan Lake-area farmer

Tire tracks in his canola cost Sylvan Lake farmer Dennis Duncan $5,000 off the top of his 2009 crop.

Dennis Duncan found his no ATV trespassing sign gone upon arriving at one of his fields north of Sylvan Lake Wednesday.

Tire tracks in his canola cost Sylvan Lake farmer Dennis Duncan $5,000 off the top of his 2009 crop.

Some time this week, one of the offenders had the audacity to remove the sign — posts and all — that he had placed advising people that his land is private and that trespassing ATV riders face charges and fines.

Duncan said he has about 1,300 acres of cropland between Rainy Creek Road and the north side of Sylvan Lake.

Fencing is not an option because of the high costs and because the worst of the offending riders just cut the wire and drive in anyway, heedless of the damage their machines cause to crops.

Growth in nearby acreage subdivisions has brought more and more people to the countryside, and they have brought with them their ATVs and snowmobiles.

Duncan has taken steps to keep people off his crops, from posting signs to lobbying the county for help. But the riders keep coming and county patrols and RCMP seem powerless to stop them, he said.

Confirming Duncan’s concerns, county Councillor Keith Stephenson, who farms in the same area, said that the increasing population of recreational riders, especially around the shorelines of Gull Lake and Sylvan Lake, is damaging crops and destroying sensitive environmental areas.

As part of a three-year strategic plan worked out this summer, the county is looking for new ways to prevent recreational riders on ATVs and snowmobiles from creating a nuisance where they’re not wanted, said Stephenson.

But the solutions are as elusive as the machines.

Provincial statutes allow farmers to ride quads on county roads to get from field to field, and the county has its own bylaw allowing people to ride in ditches and to ride on the extreme right side of the road when a ditch is blocked or doesn’t exist, such as crossing a bridge, said county CAO Terry Hager.

An updated bylaw will focus on road access but will likely have little impact on private land, said Hager. There will be a balancing act, since people are allowed to ride the machines on their own land and ATVs are a common tool in the farming community.

For now, the landowners’ only recourse is to contact the RCMP, said Hager. County patrol officers have no jurisdiction on private land, he said. They can speak to the perpetrators, but they can’t lay charges or write a ticket.

Sgt. Duncan Babchuk of the Sylvan Lake RCMP said his detachment has a couple of ATVs at its disposal and will “absolutely” investigate whenever members receive complaints of people trespassing on private property.

Often enough, by the time police arrive, the perpetrators have already ridden off, said Babchuk.

At the same time, he is not being deluged with complaints.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there was only one active file, dated Oct. 5, from a landowner reporting trespassing ATVs.

Just Posted

Red Deer ‘champion’ helps hospital by sharing ongoing petition

It’s been about three years since many physicians at Red Deer Regional… Continue reading

Red Deer Airport’s prospects are looking up for 2019

Ultra-low-cost passenger service is on the horizon

Funding down for Red Deer Christmas charities

Food hampers and toys for children going out to those in need

UPDATED: Delburne man found not guilty in connection with 2016 fatal rollover

Daniel Wayne Newsham had been on trial for manslaughter

Loan officer accused of $1 million fraud to plead guilty

Accused allegedly forged customer names to get loans while working at Sylvan Lake bank

UPDATED: Delburne man found not guilty in connection with 2016 fatal rollover

Daniel Wayne Newsham had been on trial for manslaughter

Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV’s Laverne and director of ‘Big,’ ‘A League of Their Own’

Bronx-born Penny Marshall, who found ’70s sitcom success on “Laverne and Shirley”… Continue reading

Chabot scores overtime winner to lift Senators over Predators 4-3

OTTAWA — Thomas Chabot saw an opening and he took it. And… Continue reading

Canadian Marielle Thompson earns World Cup ski cross bronze in season opener

AROSA, Switzerland — Canada’s Marielle Thompson captured bronze at the opening World… Continue reading

Canada doesn’t make Oscars short list for best foreign language film

LOS ANGELES — Canada is no longer in the running for best… Continue reading

Warrant issued for arrest of ‘Schwimmer lookalike’ suspect

LONDON — A British judge has issued an arrest warrant for an… Continue reading

Moneywise: Canadian workers unhappy with pay, want pension plans

Many working Canadians are feeling underpaid and are so worried about their… Continue reading

Brazil police say faith healer has turned himself in

RIO DE JANEIRO — A celebrity faith healer accused of sexually abusing… Continue reading

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

VANCOUVER — Nicola Froese says she has always loved playing sports, but… Continue reading

Most Read