I grew up in paradise on the shores of a small clean lake in Muskoka, Ontario’s famed cottage country. There are thick forests and cascades of granite along the lake’s edges and the whole area pulsates with wildlife. I share my childhood home with deer, moose, beaver, bullfrogs, snapping turtles, chipmunks, loons, and black bears. A hilly dirt road leads from the paved highway to my parents’ house, about 1.5 kilometres of bumps and twists that I know like the back of my hand. I’ve walked it countless times for pleasure, for exercise, to catch the school bus, and to visit the summer cottagers who use the road to escape the city on weekends.
That pristine environment, however, is on the verge of a crisis. All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) associations have been lobbying the Lake of Bays Township to allow the use of ATVs on all Township and District roads, which is currently illegal. Many people have been serious concerns about the negative impact of ATVs on the natural environment. They are allowed on the trails left over from years of sustainable logging (following the Forest Stewardship Council rules) in the woods behind my parents’ home, but the effect has been devastating. ATVs create huge ruts and mud holes that erode soil, create noise and pollution, disturb and compact the topsoil. A minimal amount of disruption is needed for forest growth to regenerate after logging, but ATVs make that impossible. If granted access to roads, ATVs will not only be able to reach trails more easily, but a whole new host of dangers and repercussions open up.
ATVs would make roads much more dangerous. They often drive fast and recklessly (I’ve seen it myself many times) and create huge clouds of dust. They are excessively loud and have no boundaries when it comes to their capability to go anywhere, as well as their total lack of respect for the many residents who gravitate to Lake of Bays Township in Muskoka to escape the noise and pollution of the city. In a letter written by residents who oppose the legalization of ATVs on roads, it is stated that “ATVs are totally inconsistent with the official plan ‘To conserve the rich landscape of lakes, forests, and wetlands, and safeguard the integrity of the water, air, sky, forests, shorelines, and natural habitat.” There is so little untouched forest left in this world; why precipitate its destruction even further, especially when it serves no purpose beyond recreation?
The Lake of Bays Association is rallying its residents to fight the legalization of ATVs on roads and the residents of my beloved lake are also joining the fray. We’ve started a few projects to spread the word and to help gather support for this hugely important fight. Input and support from any of you readers is much appreciated. Lloyd Alter, editor-in-chief of Treehugger and lake resident, has started a new blog that contains updates, No to ATVs on Lake of Bays Roads, and a Facebook page. In the meantime, please take a moment to sign this online petition (via Change.org) to ban the use of ATVs on municipal roads in Lake of Bays Township. Together we can stop this.
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ATVs: Destroying the Climate and Environment for Fun (via Treehugger)