Lacombe County unanimously passed an off-highway vehicle bylaw on Thursday, although councillors doubted they had heard the last of the contentious issue.
The county has spent 18 months, held a number of public meetings and gone through at least four drafts to come up with a bylaw to regulate the use of off-highway vehicles, such as quads, on county roads.
Under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, it is illegal to ride quads on the county’s roads, although municipalities can bring in their own bylaws to allow it.
In Lacombe County — like most Alberta rural municipalities — quads are a regular sight on gravel roads and are a standard form of transportation for many farmers checking their fields or livestock.
Many riders also use them for recreation, which has generated persistent landowner complaints about trespassing and stunting by riders.
Limiting off-highway vehicle use to those using them for agriculture or business was initially proposed and then abandoned because of council concerns it was not fair to all residents.
Under the bylaw, off-highway vehicle users can use roads under the control of the county, although riders must still abide by any provincial regulations related to their use. For instance, provincial law says riders must be at least 14 years old.
Two-digit and three-digit highways under provincial control, such as Secondary Hwy 597, remain off limits.
County trails and parks also can’t be used by riders. Those breaking the rules face a $250 fine on first offence, rising to $500 and $750 on second and third offences.
Councillors got an earful about trespassing and stunting at a recent open house.
Coun. Brenda Knight said in county subdivisions and hamlets, people want to see road rules enforced.
“I know there is an expectation we will be giving out stunting tickets and speeding tickets in those areas,” she said.
“By passing this bylaw, we’re basically promising them we’re going to do something.”
Coun. Paula Law said she considered the bylaw a “work in progress. We’re going to have to revisit this.”
Law said the bylaw simply allows quad riders already using county roads to continue to use them.
Coun. Cliff Soper expressed concern that the county was “basically opening up all over roads for recreational use.”
After the bylaw was proposed, he made a motion, which was passed, to review the issue in a year to see how the bylaw was working.