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Government report recommends ATVs use more Nova Scotia roads

Association says road use pilot project a success

4 min read
A sign at the beginning of an ATV road route
caption A sign marks the beginning of the Porters Lake Off-Highway Vehicle Pilot Project route on Myra Road. While the Porters Lake route is short and connects nearby trails, others across the province extend for more than five kilometres.
Luke Dyment

A report recommending more ATV access to roads is the “biggest positive step forward in our history of 26 years,” said the executive director of an organization for all-terrain vehicles.

Barry Barnet of the All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Nova Scotia (ATVANS) said on Wednesday that he was happy with the findings of a consultant’s report commissioned by the government, which evaluated the province’s Off-Highway Vehicle Pilot Project.

The report, released on Nov. 28, suggested more routes should be added across Nova Scotia to help ATVs access trails or local businesses.

The pilot, running since 2018, allows four-wheeled ATVs to access select public roads to reach certain destinations. ATVs are referred to as off-highway vehicles — or OHVs — in the report.

Barnet said with more opportunities for ATVs to use roadways, it will be easier for riders to get around.

“For riders in Nova Scotia, it’s going to create a level of connectivity that we’ve never had,” Barnet said.

Barry Barnet of the All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Nova Scotia
caption Barry Barnet, executive director of the All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Nova Scotia, said more road access points will “create a level of connecvtivity that we’ve never had” for ATVs.
Luke Dyment

The pilot project’s routes are made up of 14 kilometres of road in seven different places, including two sites in Halifax Regional Municipality. The pilot was scheduled to run for three years but was extended for another two in October 2021.

Pilot routes range from a few hundred metres to five kilometres in length, where ATVs must drive on the road’s shoulder where possible. Driving on roads outside of the set routes is illegal.

Positive feedback from communities, stakeholders

The consultant’s report said feedback from riders, business owners and community members near the routes was positive.

Deborah Bayer, a spokesperson for the province’s Department of Public Works, said in an email that stakeholders supported making the pilot permanent and adding new routes. That includes businesses, who “reported benefiting” from ATV access.

Marilyn Wutzke works at the Walton Pub & Eatery in Walton, a community an hour outside of Halifax on the Minas Basin. One of the seven pilot routes is in Walton, passing by the restaurant.

Most of the restaurant’s business, Wutzke said, is from ATV riders. But even though it’s always been popular with riders in the area, business from them has improved since the pilot was implemented.

“They support the community and they have everything here they need,” Wutzke said. A store also operates next to the restaurant, where riders stop for gas and other supplies.

Riders have been crucial for keeping the business going, Wutzke said, as business “has been slow” through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need them now. We look forward to the weekends.”

Next steps

Bayer didn’t say whether the province had approved the report’s recommendations, or how long it might take.

For new routes to be added, Bayer said, a location must meet certain criteria, including:

  • Easy access along the road to nearby trails and/or amenities.
  • Low traffic volumes on the road.
  • Access to the road’s shoulder.
  • A speed limit of 80 km/h or less on the road.
  • Good sight-lines for oncoming traffic.

Barnet said ATVANS applied for 39 more routes to be implemented across the province. Should they be approved, he said riders would be able to travel almost across the province with little time spent on public roads.

Barnet is hopeful it’s just a matter of time until road connections to trails and businesses are common across the province.

“The report speaks for itself. There are virtually no negative consequences,” Barnet said. “It was completely unsurprising for us.”

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About the author

Luke Dyment

Luke Dyment is a Halifax-based reporter from Prince Edward Island. He has written for the Globe and Mail, The Signal and the Dalhousie Gazette....

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  1. R


    This is extremely good news . As a senior who has always enjoyed nature and adventure , this opens up the oppertunity to take pleasure in our beautiful province.I have hadx an ATV/UTV for 15 years , always obeying the law,rules and regulations.As walking is not as comfortable as it was when younger , this concept will provide me with the oppertunity to explore.THANK YOU ,THANK YOU !!!
  2. K


    Good on Nova Scotia, hopefully it will follow NFLDs example which is a huge tourist industry there.
  3. A

    Allan Buteau

    Meanwhile we are seeing more and more incidents involving Off-highway vehicles and the OHV traffic on our roads has gotten out of hand. Many of these offenders belong to the ATV Association and most of these riders either remove their plates or are neither registered nor insured. I live in Antigonish County, were for the past 12-years we were overrun with Off-highway vehicles racing past our property. The RCMP proved almost useless with every officer that I spoke with claiming that it is the same all over. The RCMP are not equipped to enforce the OHV Act. In speaking to the head of the conservation officers who are also mandated to enforce the OHV Act, he noted that the province has cut his budget and his staff. We are down to 2 COs to cover 3-counties. Best deterrence I found is to place a camera on your mailbox. ATV riders and such know that they are breaking the law and now they think twice before riding past my place. What the ATV Associations is asking for is to be rewarded for illegal behavior that puts both the ATV and the public at unnecessary risk. I have been in constant contact with both my MLA and the responsible Minister. Why was the general Public not contacted nor allowed to participate in this matter?
    • K

      Kelly Deveau

      You are a small minority with issues with the 48,000 registered OHV in NS ! We have just as much right to access what our tax dollars contribute to ! In all forms of life you will have people that dont want to follow the rules ! So "WE" the OHV community would appreciate if you stop judging us all as one group ! THx have a great day !
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