A special public safety meeting was held Aug. 6 with Peter Frigo, a resident of Thompson who spoke during the July 20 council meeting regarding his concerns over ATV use in residential areas in Thompson.
Members of the public safety meeting include city councillors, city employees, police as well as fire and emergency personnel. Frigo lives on Smith Crescent and says his greatest fear is a young person getting hurt because of the illegal use of ATV’s in the area.
It is illegal, says mayor Dennis Fenske, for any type of ATV, dirt bike or snowmobile equipment to be on Smith Crescent. The city’s bylaw regarding the operation of off-road vehicles, which was first passed in 1990, and last amended in 2014, states that no off-road vehicles are allowed within the boundaries of the City of Thompson, which includes public reserves, park areas, road allowances, public parking lots, playgrounds and recreation areas.
The operation of off-road vehicles, excluding snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, is permitted between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. in the area of Thompson bounded on the east by Cree Road, on the north by Weir Road, on the west by Manasan Drive and on the south by the south boundary of the City of Thompson, as well as north of the Burntwood River and west of Provincial Road 391.
Thompson RCMP Insp. Will Tewnion agrees this is a problem, and believes strictly enforcing the law isn’t answer. “There’s two issues. One is if we strictly enforce the law, I don’t think it would fit as well with all of the community needs. Not only that but if I was to enforce every law like that I wouldn’t have members on the street arresting the drug dealers, and people committing domestic assaults.”
Tewnion says they have charged individuals and have seized ATV’s but more are getting away with it. The RCMP have a few issues regarding identification of the driver, registered owner, and if they’re able to safety stop the driver. “If I have a choice of trying to stop a young child who’s speeding down the road, and having a member chase after that person and contribute to the danger, my instructions would to be not to chase.”
Frigo included during the meeting a list of 11 ideas on how to stop unsafe and illegal use of off-road vehicles which included banning the use of these vehicles within city limits, a city licence plate program, or even a radio and television campaign to reminder riders of their responsibilities.
Another option brought up by the Frigo’s was the ability to block off the gravel pathway that the riders are using. Coun. Judy Kolada agreed. “It worked well for the Millennium Trail. My thinking is that the city needs to get their signage done, and we need to do our public education and relations. I think we should put a timeline on education, and then I think we should ask the RCMP should do a blitz. Enforcement is the best education to have.”
However, Fenske says they cannot block the pathway with a boulder-type object because it’s a pedestrian walkway, but could barricade it, and/or increase signage in the area. There previously was signage, but Fenske noted it has been vandalized, and the City has yet to reinstall the signage stating off-roading is illegal in the area.
Committee chairperson Coun. Blake Ellis noted that there were four areas of resolution for this issue. First and foremost there needs to be more education surrounding the use of ATV’s and where people can use them, and Tewnion and Fenske both agreed. The signage needs to be fixed and replaced, there needs to be a greater enforcement of the laws, and lastly the bylaw will be looked at.