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Re: Georgian Bluffs decision to close COLE's Sideroad

The ongoing shoving match between ATV/ORV enthusiasts and local municipalities is both unfair and unnecessary. Perhaps emboldened by a 5+year diet of ‘mouth and might makes right’ US politics, local councillors can be faced with angry constituents and threatening phone calls. They shouldn’t be hung out to dry like that.

Populist movements and their bullying tactics which bled into Canada a long time ago, can effectively distract from 2 key points. First, every municipality must adhere to their Official Plan (OP) and existing bylaws and legal agreements when it comes to land protection. Second, we are bound to observe the democratic process. The OP and bylaws were drafted through that process. The current state reflects the interests and will of the majority.

While a previous submission to council states ATV’s deserve a first-rate place to ride, that sentiment hasn’t been put to the test. If all rate payers were to weigh in, would the interests of ATV riders be placed before everyone else? The majority tends to be quiet until you ask them – or have an election.

Our current provincial government, having been on the receiving end of development industry largesse for decades, is now paying up by clawing back environmental controls, defunding Conservation Authorities, and pecking away at valuable Greenbelt acreage. One would be foolish to think these actions represent the majority since the protests have been extensive and are not going away. The data typically reveals (and Covid has underscored) that more people value the natural environment - both the sight of pristine spaces and lack of noise. The loss of wetlands, natural habitats, and watershed quality hit egregious levels years ago and much of that loss is irretrievable.

ATV riders state that their numbers will soon double. Possibly, and so will everyone else’s. The future may not be as encouraging as they think. There is a great migration happening. City boomers are cashing in on idiotic house prices. Many others, no longer tethered to the downtown core, are escaping those prices. Ask them why they’re coming northward and they’ll likely say access to water, trails and natural spaces. Ask them if they are moving to see and hear and use ATV’s and then honour their answers, for they will become ratepayers and voters.

Councils and staff should not have to fend off angry special interest groups, but the loss of Province level integrity means they may have to show greater fortitude. Point to the pre-existing plans and regulations. If necessary, support them with signage and communications. As for ratepayers, engage in the conversation and the process, do your homework and speak up.

You decide the direction your community should go in, and whether to support the enforcement of land protection. Do you want your environment and community guided by what may be a minority voice and one that includes petition names who are paying taxes and voting elsewhere?

Shirley Boxem





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