By Vivian Collings
If you’re planning to use the Haliburton County Rail Trail this summer, you can expect to see orange-vested volunteer wardens on patrol.
The Haliburton ATV Association (HATVA) and the County of Haliburton have teamed up with the Kawartha ATV Association (KATVA) to implement trail wardens along the Haliburton County Rail Trail (HCRT) to promote ATV safety as of July 1.
In a prepared statement to the Times, director of public works for the County of Haliburton Robert Sutton, president of HATVA Joel Bockneck, and president of KATVA Carolyn Richards said, “During the annual review of the land use agreements between Kawartha and Haliburton ATV Associations and the County of Haliburton, it was noted that the volume of all types of users has increased on the trail steadily each year … HATVA and KATVA met with the County of Haliburton staff and agreed that it would be beneficial to all trail users as well as the residents of the County to try the trail patrols for a one-year trial period.”
All trail wardens are volunteers who travel along ATV trails and stop riders to check for valid trail passes, check licence plates, and educate riders about ATV safety on weekends.
Volunteer trail wardens are able to educate riders rather than enforce, so in difficult circumstances, they are required to pass the situation along to appropriate authority.
Trail warden for KATVA Greg Arkwright said, “If a rider takes off on us or becomes argumentative, we will let them leave, but we will take down some of the information or take a photo of the [ATV] to pass it along to the patrol coordinators who will then pass it along to police or by-law officers.”
So far, there are no trail wardens from Haliburton County, so KATVA will lend some of their 30 wardens to travel north of Kinmount to patrol the HCRT.
“When patrolling the trails, they are first and foremost trail ambassadors promoting safety and education to all trail users including motorized and non-motorized. They are there to answer questions trail users may have and to educate users on the rules of the trails,” said the statement.
Trail users can expect to see wardens wearing orange vests and travelling in teams of at least two.
The prepared statement said, “They will be stopping ATV riders and checking them for valid trail passes as required by the county by-laws.”
On Sunday, July 10, two KATVA trail wardens patrolled the boundary of the HCRT and the Victoria Rail Trail just north of Kinmount.
Arkwright was one of the volunteers on duty on July 10 and said wardens help to uphold safety standards on the trail.
“With the increased number of [trail patrol] riders in our area, we see very few, if any, accidents on our trails. The riders know we are out there, so for the most part, they are following the rules,” he said.
Richards said bylaw and provincial regulations governing trail use can be confusing, so the goal of trail wardens is to bridge the educational gap for trail users.
“We have seen an average of a 20 per cent increase in trail use every year for the last five years, but we haven’t seen the same increase in accidents on the trails,” she said.
Richards explained that it will take some time to see the same results on the HCRT because it hasn’t been patrolled by volunteer wardens in a number of years.
For current KATVA trail wardens, the experience has been fulfilling.
“I want to be involved in helping make sure that the club runs, the trails are looked after, and that the trails are safe. I want to make sure that our name is out there because right now in City of Kawartha Lakes, there are a few people pushing against us, so we want to make sure our name is out there in a positive way,” Arkwright said.
Chris Pellow, the other patroller on duty on July 10, has been patrolling with KATVA for four years and said he loves to be outside on patrol days and wants to make sure that the trails can be safely enjoyed by everyone.
As outlined on the KATVA website, the two ATV associations have a reciprocal agreement to “permit each association’s members trail privileges in their respective municipalities,” which means that each association recognizes a rider with a trail permit of the other as valid.
So far, sending educational patrollers to the Haliburton County Rail Trail is a pilot project.
“This is a one-year trial project and will become a long-term part of the trail stewardship plan for both KATVA and HATVA if successful,” said the statement.