If town councillors agree, ATV riders could soon be driving legally from the parking lot at Sackville’s Visitor Information Centre along Mallard Drive, through the busy intersection at McDonald’s to the ATV trails at the far end of Wright Street.
At its meeting next week, Sackville Town Council is expected to vote on whether to support the New Brunswick ATV Federation’s request to allow all-terrain vehicles to operate on those two municipal roadways.
The federation is asking the town for a letter of support before it applies for permission from the provincial Department of Transportation as well as Justice and Public Safety.
Paul Branscombe, President of the Tantramar ATV Club and treasurer of the provincial federation, told councillors at their meeting this week that it’s better to allow ATVers to operate legally on those routes so that speed limits and other rules of the road can be strictly enforced.
“That’s the thing that we as an ATV Federation are saying, that we wanted control,” Branscombe said.
He added that allowing ATV owners to unload their vehicles at the Visitor Information Centre and to drive legally on Mallard and Wright would enable his federation to market Sackville as a destination for riders from the three Maritime provinces as well as Ontario and Quebec.
“There is a major spinoff for tourism,” he said. “Last year in February, the last week of February, we hosted a poker run, 50 rooms at the Coastal Inn, 45 of them were booked for two nights by ATVers.”
Branscombe said the federation has permission from McDonald’s and the Esso station for ATV riders to cross those properties on their way to and from the trails at the end of Wright Street.
While several councillors liked the idea of more business for local restaurants, gas stations and hotels, they also expressed concern about further congestion at the McDonald’s intersection.
“I drive through that intersection every day on the way to work and it is pretty bad,” said Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken. “We have people making illegal turns everywhere and to add, [I’m] not against the ATV group or anything, but just to add more vehicles there of a different kind…worries me.”
Councillor Michael Tower noted that he sees a lot of ATVers riding illegally past the liquor store on Wright Street and so he likes the idea of setting some rules. But he said he also worries about more traffic at an already busy intersection.
“I go through that a lot too and I know that people will push that light a lot of times,” Tower said, adding that he’s concerned about ATVs colliding with drivers trying to beat the light.
“I have my concerns also of the idea of ATVs flying up Wright Street because [of] the traffic that goes in and out of McDonald’s at that section and then the one that comes out of the liquor store, Foodland and then you’ve also got people who are coming out of the Coastal [Inn],” Tower said suggesting that a one-year trial period could allow the town to assess how increased ATV traffic would work in the area.
What will RCMP say?
Councillor Bill Evans seemed to sum up other councillors’ feelings when he said that while he’d like to be convinced that allowing ATV traffic would be a good idea, his support will depend on a recommendation from Sergeant Paul Gagné who has just returned to head Sackville’s RCMP detachment.
CAO Phil Handrahan said Gagné hasn’t had a chance to consider the matter yet, but promised that town staff would solicit his opinion before Tuesday’s council meeting.
For his part, Paul Branscombe of the ATV federation said that when the proposal was first discussed during a meeting with the town in April, the RCMP had no objections then to seeking council’s support for it.