Council considers stiffer penalties for illegal driving in city parks and on trails

A proposal to allow snowmobiles to access Cosmo Lodge was voted down by council. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald.

Dirt bikes, snowmobile and all terrain vehicle (ATV) riders could be facing steeper penalties for illegally using local trails if a proposed bylaw amendment makes its way through city council.

On March 26, council debated the possibility of amending Bylaw No. 3 of 2016 to allow police and bylaw officers to “immobilize and seize” any vehicle being unlawfully used in city parks and trails.

Safety and trail conditions in Little Red River Park are the primary concern, but not the only one.

The Community Services Department has reported a number of unauthorized vehicles using the trails, doing “considerable damage” in the process. Illegal vehicle activity has also been spotted on some of Prince Albert’s golf courses.

Although the city currently fines those caught driving where they shouldn’t, Mayor Greg Dionne said it wasn’t having the desired effect. He believes impounding the vehicles for up to 30 days will change that.

“Charging someone with a $150 or $200 fine, which we do, is not a deterrent,” Dionne said. “If they know they’re going to lose that ATV or that snowmobile or that vehicle for 30 days into our compound, they’re going to think twice about going down that trail.”

Under the current bylaw, some recreational vehicle use is allowed in city parks, but only under strict conditions, such as events approved by city council. Recreational drivers are otherwise not allowed on park trails and city recreational property at any time during the year.

The change won’t be officially approved for another meeting after councillors sent it back for review, after concerns it was out of sync with the city’s traffic bylaw.

Dionne said he’s confident it will be approved once it comes back for a second reading.

At the moment, police and bylaw officers can seize recreational vehicles driver illegally in other parts of the city. However, that law does not currently apply to city parks.