At Risk

Damage Caused By Motorized Vehicles

 grassland ripped up by ATV's 


In the News:

Riders rile Cambridge hiker; Unhappy trails; Man who loves conservation area tries to fend off all_terrain vehicles;BOB BURTT. The Record. Kitchener, Ont.: Oct 5, 2005. pg. A.1

( (c) 2005 The Record (Waterloo Region). All rights reserved. )

Joe Green cherishes the Chilligo Conservation Area as a quiet spot to walk, bike and get away from things.

He knows where the deer stay in winter and where beaver build their lodges. He can tell you about the mink, raccoons, opossums and coyotes that dwell in the forest, and the nesting birds that stop over during migration.

The Hespeler land feels sacred to Green, and he’s locked in a battle to save it.

His foes are the growing number of all_terrain vehicles and their fun_seeking owners.

The noise they create and the ruts they leave behind make them unwelcome guests to Green and others who frequent the area.

So far, he’s had almost no help from the City of Cambridge or the Grand River Conservation Authority in discouraging the noisy invaders.

Green buys and posts signs reminding people that ATVs are not welcome on the trails, but the signs disappear as soon as they go up.

He tried putting logs and tree limbs across trails and, in one spot, has started to build a stone wall to prevent motorized vehicles from reaching the city trails.

Both city and conservation authority officials say they share Green’s concerns but don’t want him building obstacles or posting signs on their property.

Green said it doesn’t much matter __ the branches across the trails never last long.

He is passionate about his battle and is determined to win, but he admits things can get ugly.

And his efforts to persuade the joy seekers that this spot should be off limits have failed so far.

“The other day, I saw a man and a woman with his and her ATVs and they were driving right down the creek bed,” Green said.

“They stopped to say hello and I just stood there and shook my head. I just don’t get it.”

The large forested area is bounded by the Highway 24 bypass, Fisher Mills Road, Clemens Avenue and the Speed River.

It is owned by the Grand River Conservation Authority, the City of Cambridge and private interests.

Green feels a spiritual connection with the place. He used to take comfort in believing it would never be developed because much of it is on flood plain and there’s no access from the Highway 24 bypass.

But that was before.

“These people with all_terrain vehicles have decided that it should become a playground for them,” he said. “They’ve developed an extensive system of rutted roads coming off of the hills on Highway 24 and right through the conservation area.

“The narrow pathways that were once used by hikers and bicycles have become twice as wide.”

There are areas where deep, water_filled ruts make paths impassable on foot or on a bike.

In other areas, the banks of Ellis Creek have been broken down at spots where ATV operators cross.

What they are doing is clearly illegal, Green said, but it doesn’t appear the city or the conservation authority will act anytime soon.

Ralph Beaumont, a Grand River Conservation Authority spokesperson, confirmed that ATVs are a problem and are not allowed in Chilligo or on most authority properties.

But with 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) under the authority’s control, regular patrols are impossible and enforcement is a challenge.

The authority does patrol areas such as Chilligo, and people have been caught and ticketed for trespassing.

Bob McMullen, chair of the Cambridge Trails Advisory Committee, said he understands Tobey’s frustration.

McMullen said most of the damage is on Grand River Conservation Authority land, away from city trails and outside city control.

But he’s no stranger to ATVs and the problems they create. The vehicles have left huge ruts in city trails behind the Knights of Columbus.

McMullen always carries a camera and cellphone when he visits city trails __ the camera to catch culprits on film and the phone to call police.

“They don’t like the camera because you caught them someplace they know they shouldn’t be.”

McMullen recalled taking a picture of the driver of an all_ terrain vehicle, who retaliated by racing towards him at full speed.

“I have no sympathy for them,” he said.

Brian Witt, president of the Waterloo County ATV Club, said his group aims to avoid this kind of conflict.

“Most of our trails are in the Wellesley_St. Clements area, not in towns or cities,” he said. “To try to run on walking trails is insane.

“There are all kinds of trails available in the Listowel and Innerkip area. Our members don’t want to be in the city.”

Where there are problems, Witt said, his group tries to work with landowners to solve them.