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Whitehorse Proposes New Snowmobile Bylaw

Published online: Jul 27, 2011 News

By CBC News

 

Whitehorse bylaw officials are proposing new snowmobile rules that, if passed, would make it illegal to ride on city streets.

 

The proposed new snowmobile bylaw would restrict snowmobiles to trails that are designated for use by motorized vehicles, as well as restrict use in environmentally sensitive areas.

 

Mayor Bev Buckway said Whitehorse residents and user groups were consulted in creating the new snowmobile bylaw, but she acknowledged that it may still be controversial.

 

"It's very clear that the citizens would like to see a balance struck between the environmental protection, the lifestyle and recreation, and public safety," Buckway told reporters last week.

 

"We also recognize that's a very difficult balance to achieve because it's diametrically opposed positions on the subject."

 

If approved by city council, the rules would replace Whitehorse's existing snowmobile bylaw, which was first passed in 1972 and still refers to snowmobiles as "motor toboggans."

 

The proposed bylaw would mean operating snowmobiles on city streets, which has been legal under current regulations, would be prohibited.

 

City officials have identified more than 800 kilometres of trails in Whitehorse, and say half of those trails would be designated for snowmobiles.

 

May Be Difficult To Enforce

But bylaw manager Dave Pruden conceded that it would be difficult to enforce the new rules, since too many Yukoners already ignore the city's existing rules for snowmobile licensing, registration and insurance.

 

"It's hard to identify somebody who's dressed in black on a snow machine with a helmet on, but what makes it a lot easier for enforcement is if we have registration on those snow machines," Pruden said.

 

The new bylaw proposes stiff fines for violators, but Pruden said he believes educating young snowmobile drivers will be key to compliance.

 

"We know that when we pass the legislation there is going to be some uptake. Is everybody going to uptake? Probably not," he said.

 

"Everyone seems to focus on this: 'How are you going to enforce it?' . That's not the key. The key is education."

 

The proposed rules are the result of months of research and public consultation by a snowmobile task force.