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By: Robert Janis

Avalon Trailways Corporation

Avalon Trailways Corporation Promotes ATV Recreation in Newfoundland and Labrador Canada

Anyone who rides the trails of Newfoundland and Labrador Canada owe the Avalon Trailways Corporation (AVTRAC) a debt of gratitude. The mission of the organization is to develop and promote the trailway for safe and responsible multi-use activity. It is recognized by the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Council and the All-Terrain Quad Council of Canada as well as the governments of Canada and Newfoundland as the only organization in Newfoundland and Labrador that represents ATV recreationists in the Province.

The organization has been fighting for ATV recreationists since its first moment of inception in 1999. It was that year that individual ATV riders banded together to form the organization to stop a town from barring access to a portion of the trailway.

To truly understand the action that was taken that formed the club and to better understand what the club does, you need to know some background concerning ATV riding and recreation in Canada.

A Little Background on ATV Recreation In Canada

Anyone who is familiar with ATVing in Canada and the Canadian provinces is familiar with the Trans Canada Trail, which runs from St. Johns, Newfoundland in the east to Vancouver, British Columbia in the west. The trail is open to outdoor recreationists including ATVers, equestrians, and hikers. Access is free.

The portion of the trail that is located in Newfoundland was originally occupied by the tracks used by the province’s trains. In 1988 the trains were closed, the rails were removed, and the railbed was given to the provincial government. An organization called the Newfoundland Trailway Council was created to oversee and maintain the route and then the railbed was handed over from the government to this new council. It was then affiliated into the Trans Canada Trail. The Newfoundland Trailways Council has received $1 million from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Association (ACOA), a group that funds work projects that include the trailway; $1 million from the Trans Canadian Trail Council and $800,000 from the government of Newfoundland to finance the re-building, maintenance, and stabilization of bridges along the trailway.

Rick Noseworthy, president of the Avalon Trailways Corporation and vice president of the Newfoundland Trailways Council, explained that about 95 percent of all land in Newfoundland is owned by the government. The land falls under the control of the Department of Crown Lands. Rules fall under the ATV Act. That Act is enforced by various agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), local police, the Department of Wild Life and the Department of Forestry. The ATV Act was passed in the 1980s.

According to the Act, ATVers are allowed to operate on mineral soils, decommissioned roads, and the railbed. ATVers cannot ride on bogs and wetlands. Insurance and permits are not necessary to ride an ATV.

“Trails here have been developed over hundreds of years. There are no restrictions on where you can ride,” explained Noseworthy.

Preserving the Status Quo

As mentioned, the Avalon Trailways Corporation was created in 1999 to stop attempts by the town of Conception Bay South to ban ATV access to a portion of the trail. “Pretty much overnight they erected barricades,” said Noseworthy. “A bunch of fellows who ride ATVs went to the town leaders and told them what they were doing was illegal, and we threatened to sue.” They said, “Okay, take us to court.” We were just a bunch of fellows who were not organized, and we had no money to go to court. So we got in touch with the Canadian ATV Association, which has since become the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Council (COHV), told them what was happening. They said to take the town to court, and they would pay for it.

“In order to sue a case like this we had to get incorporated,” continued Noseworthy. “So we got a small group of ATVers together, formed an organization, incorporated it, and then took the town to court and won. To this day the trail is open to ATV riders.”

The AVTRAC was and still is an ATV group, but it mostly serves as an unofficial lobbyist for the rights of ATV riders. “We are a hands-on group,” said Noseworthy. “We have developed a very good relationship with the government. We have a government that listens to us and that we can work with.”

According to Noseworthy, the AVTRAC is not afraid to get in front on an issue to promote the 98 percent good, courteous riders. Also, they are not afraid to call out and criticize the 2 percent who are bad and inconsiderate.

Education is a very important part of the organization. “We have a program in which we go out to schools, service groups, businesses, people who use ATVs for work, and we hold Ride Safe, Ride Smart classes,” said Noseworthy. “The training campaign includes an enclosed trailer, ATVs, and all sorts of educational materials; and we hit the road through the sponsorship of the Canadian Off Highway Vehicle Council. We promote safe, responsible ATV riding.”

In addition, the group also works with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The RCMP organizes youth symposiums and invites AVTRAC to participate. The AVTRAC organizes events that they invite the RCMP to participate in. “We talk our talk about ATVs--the do’s and the don’ts and the whys and the why nots. Then, a representative of the RCMP talks about the rules and regulations of ATV riding,” said Noseworthy.

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