/Jenn Watt photo

Letter: Committee urges council to keep snowmobiles off Highland Street

An open letter to Mayor Roberts and members of Dysart et al council

In response to the March 5 article in the Haliburton Echo “Allowing snowmobiles on Highland Street” Aging Well Haliburton County respectfully asks that Dysart et al council maintain and enforce the current bylaw.

We agree that something needs to be done. The current situation whereby snowmobiles are driving on sidewalks in Haliburton Village is a practice that cannot be allowed to continue. While it is a safety hazard for all this issue is especially concerning to members of our group. Winter is a difficult time for Haliburton County seniors many of whom are also disabled. Even on days when the weather is sunny and mild the sidewalks may be difficult to navigate even on Highland Street. Snowmobiles are a dangerous distraction in many ways to those already struggling to walk safely – they’re intimidating as they come toward you and frightening if they come up on you from behind (some hearing-impaired seniors may not even hear them approach).

There are also parts of Highland Street where the sidewalks are too narrow to allow a large snowmobile and people to comfortably pass and many seniors and physically disabled people cannot just safely step off either side of the sidewalk in winter. Nor should they have to. There are only a small number of motorized vehicles permitted on sidewalks including electric wheelchairs and medical scooters. There are people in the county who use these – what happens if one of them meets a snowmobile on the sidewalk on Highland Street?

We appreciate the efforts of the bylaw enforcement officer to keep snowmobiles off the sidewalk – the current bylaw restricting their access to the sidewalks absolutely must be enforced. We do realize that snowmobilers bring money to the town in winter but Haliburton seniors (and other local residents) spend money in the town year-round. Their safety needs to take priority. Also the potential damage done by the snowmobiles to the brick type sidewalks can create uneven surfaces for walking – another hazard for older adults and people with disabilities.

We realize that street access is being considered to get snowmobiles off the sidewalk but we still believe the current bylaw should remain unchanged. Streets in winter pose enough challenges already due to volume of snow creating difficulty in seeing around and over large snowbanks. As a smaller vehicle a snowmobile may be less visible. Also for some of the reasons stated above adding snowmobiles to the road mix creates a safety hazard for other vehicle drivers and pedestrians trying to cross the street.

We believe that the current accommodation for snowmobilers – the designated parking area in Head Lake Park – is close enough for them to easily access the downtown core. Rather than increasing their access we encourage council to implement additional enforcement to keep the snowmobilers in this designated area so local pedestrians other vehicle drivers and the snowmobilers themselves can all be kept as safe as possible.

The Aging Well Committee has worked hard to create an age friendly Haliburton County and received one of the inaugural Ontario Age Friendly Community Recognition Awards in 2018.  Please help Haliburton continue to be an age-friendly community by keeping snowmobiles off Highland Street.

On behalf of Aging Well

Haliburton County

Sarah Levis Member

Margery Cartwright Secretary

Doreen Boville Chair