Provincial ATV legislation prohibits council from okaying in-town use

Off Road Vehicles will likely remain prohibited from city roads despite a request from the Campbell River ATV Club to allow their use within city limits.

Such vehicles are primarily intended for off-road use and typically do not meet safety standards for roadways and highways. For that reason, the City of Campbell River – like most municipalities – has no provisions for their use within city limits.

Campbell River’s ATV Club, however, recently requested that the city consider allowing Off Road Vehicles (ORV) on designated roads within the city, specifically in the Willis Road area near the Shell gas station, in order to give riders legal access to services.

“This would allow properly registered and insured ORVs, with licensed drivers, to have ‘ride-in’ access to the services (fuel, food) in that immediate area,” wrote Mike Coulter, president of the Campbell River ATV Club, on the club’s Facebook page.

But the city’s in a tough position.

Drew Hadfield, the city’s transportation manager, said the city sought legal advice to determine how far it can push the limits.

“Based on the legal advice received, municipalities may adopt a bylaw that authorizes the use of ORVs on municipal roads under the Community Charter and the Motor Vehicle Act,” Hadfield said. “However, such a bylaw would have little effect because ORV use on highways is heavily restricted by the Motor Vehicle Regulations. The city, through such a bylaw, cannot permit what the province has largely prohibited.”

Hadfield said that even the creation of designated routes within the city, either on a road right of way or in a park, would be in conflict with the ORV Act.

The recently enacted Act does, however, allow for Off Road Vehicles to be used under certain conditions.

A permit can be obtained from the RCMP under the ORV Act to operate an ATV or ORV on any highway with restrictions.

Hadfield said a search by city staff did not find any local government on Vancouver Island that has attempted to make their own provisions for Off Road Vehicles, though a few B.C. communities off-Island have bylaws in place.

The District of Elkford, for example, permits those who have appropriate permits to use identified trails and move on roads directly from their residences to the nearest trails. The District of Tumbler Ridge allows use of Off Road Vehicles on designated trails which the district defines as trails in a public place designated for use by Off Road Vehicles.

Hadfield, though, said based on legal advice given to the city, “this would appear contrary to the Motor Vehicle Act” which stipulates that only those holding a permit issued by the RCMP are authorized to operate on highways, public spaces or public trails.

Hadfield said the province has made it difficult to work around the ORV Act.

“Municipalities still have limited delegated authority in the regulation of the use and operation of ORVs within municipal boundaries,” Hadfield said.

“Changes to the ORV Act would be needed to enable expanded use of ORVs on highways within municipal boundaries.”

Hadfield suggested to council that the ATV Club petition the province for changes.

Council, at its Monday meeting, accepted that suggestion and voted to encourage the club to lobby the provincial government to seek changes to the existing ORV Act that would allow municipalities to draft or modify existing bylaws to allow the use of ORVs that are not in conflict with provincial legislation.