By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Off-highway vehicles are now allowed on Lethbridge County roads.
During a special July 4 meeting, Lethbridge County Council approved a proposed bylaw to allow for the use of off-highway vehicles on county roads.
Bylaw 19-023 — or the Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Control bylaw — aims to control the use of OHVs in the county. The bylaw had been given first and second reading at council’s regular June 20 meeting.
When discussing the bylaw, Reeve Lorne Hickey noted that it didn’t apply to hamlets, and raised concern over what if a farmer had fields on opposite ends of a hamlet, asking how they could address that issue.
Larry Randle, director of community services for the county, said that as the bylaw current stood, it didn’t allow for OHV use in hamlets for any purpose, and if someone needed one for farming operations, that would have to “use county roads to skirt the hamlet”.
Tracy Anderson, director of corporate services for the county, noted that in the bylaw, section 5.12 read “No person shall Operate an Off-Highway Vehicle on any Highway where the Municipality has placed a sign or signs prohibiting such operation”, and they could change to bylaw to allow OHV use in hamlets unless otherwise noted.
“Say in Fairview or something, where there would be no need for it, you could prohibit OHVs in there by signage,” said Anderson.
Coun. Tory Campbell asked if they issue waivers for those cases.
“My concern with just outright allowing the use of OHVs in the hamlets, I just have concern over that with the traffic and the denser population in the hamlets as opposed to in the rural setting,” said Tory.
Randle said that he thought they could grant waivers on an individual basis, and suggested that they amend the bylaw to allow the county to issue waivers to allow for OHV use in hamlets under certain circumstances.
Previously, OHVs were prohibited for use on county roads. Reeve Lorne Hickey said that they had received requests regarding allowing the use of OHVs on county roads, and said they were another tool farmers could use.
“Especially during irrigation season, there’s a lot of use for off-highway vehicles for irrigation purposes. So it was only a natural fit, to be able to go to and from your field in one of those. And also like sometimes, if you’re rounding up your cattle or things like that, its a really good thing to use. So it’s been a popular item, and been asked for many times, but we finally have the ability to move forward and put a bylaw in place were you’re allowed to do it,” said Hickey after the meeting.
Neighbouring and northern municipalities, such as the M.D. of Willow Creek, currently allow the use of OHVs on their roads.
“It’s becoming more and more popular in agriculture all the time to use them instead of using a half-ton truck or a dirt bike, because is you have a quad or something like that, it way more stable in the field and easier for people to use,” said Hickey.
“You can carry fence posts and barbed wire and all kinds of stuff with you that you couldn’t do before, and it’s, quite frankly, a lot easier to get around then using a truck.”
Although users were previously banned from using an OHV on roads, Hickey said they were still using them. In 2018, the county issued three tickets and a total of $698 in fines.
The bylaw applies only to county-owned roads and it stresses that it does not authorizes or affect the operation of an OHV on any Provincial Highway, and they would still need to abide by the Traffic Safety Act.
OHV users in the county will also have to abide by rules, such as a 50 km/hour speed limit and not operating an OHV from half an hour after sunset and half and hour before sunrise. The bylaw does not apply to privately owned land where the operator has permission to be on.
Fines range from $78 for wearing no helmet while the OHV is in operation, to $500 for operating a OHV where it’s not permitted.
Hickey stressed that people should “exercise caution” when operating an OHV on a road and make sure that they are operating their vehicle safely.
Council passed a motion to perform third reading of the OHV Control Bylaw with an amendment to section 5.13 to read ‘Off-Highway Vehicles are not permitted to travel within hamlets and subdivisions exempt under condition of a waiver’ in a split 4-2 vote. Coun.(s) Ken Benson and Steve Campbell were opposed.