Lacombe County proposes removing ATV restrictions

Concerned about favouring one resident over another, Lacombe County council has proposed dumping most restrictions on who can ride off-highway vehicles.

Concerned about favouring one resident over another, Lacombe County council has proposed dumping most restrictions on who can ride off-highway vehicles.

One version of the proposed off-highway bylaw limited the use of quads and similar vehicles on county roads to those using them for business or agricultural purposes.

However, after yet another lengthy debate on the 14-month-old issue on Thursday, council decided that the version of the bylaw it will take to the public for comment at a June 6 open house won’t include those limitations. Councillors also decided to remove speed limits restricting riders to 50 km/h on roads and 30 km/h in ditches.

Several councillors, who farm and would be allowed to ride their off-highway vehicles, wondered how non-farming neighbours would feel about being prohibited from taking their quads out on the same roads.

Under Alberta’s Highway Traffic Safety Act it is currently illegal to ride an off-highway vehicle on any county road and riders can be fined if caught. However, the practice is common and county patrol officers have had little luck in catching the nimble vehicles that can easily scoot into nearby fields when spotted.

The province left the door open for municipalities that wish to set their own rules for off-highway vehicles on roads under their control. Some counties, including Lacombe County, have taken up the challenge.

One of the problems facing county rules crafters is how to address rural residents’ complaints about trespassing and damage caused by quad riders without punishing responsible riders who just want to use their quads for recreation or visiting neighbours.

Coun. Rod McDermand argued the bylaw shouldn’t be about trespassing, which is covered under other legislation. Barring large numbers of quad riders from roads will inevitably lead to more trespassing on nearby private property, he cautioned.

County commissioner Terry Hager warned that making the rules too lax could make the municipality a destination for out-of-county quad riders.

The proposed bylaw does address the issue of riders using parks and other open areas as routes. New regulations proposed that off-highway vehicles can only be used on designated parks or trails unless a special permit has been issued.

The open house is set for 7 p.m. at Lacombe County Council Chambers on Hwy 12 about five km west of Hwy 2.

Also on view for the public will be a new community standards bylaw, which is mostly focused on addressing noise complaints, but also will include a section on bullying.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com