Signage aims to improve snowmobile safety
By Sue Tiffin
Published Jan. 16, 2018
Dysart et al’s municipal law enforcement officer is trying to find solutions to ensure public safety remains at the forefront, while snowmobilers feel welcome in the downtown Haliburton Village area.
Kristen Boylan said she has been working with the Haliburton County Snowmobile Association (HCSA) and OPP and racking her brain trying to promote an alternative option for snowmobilers riding through Head Lake Park and on sidewalks, both which
She’s taken to an education and awareness campaign spread through the Dysart et al website and social media page, and with the help of the HCSA, who she said has been very supportive, to help any snowmobilers who might not know where they can or can’t sled in the village.
Besides snowmobiles illegally travelling on sidewalks, which has caused some scraping damage to the streetscape, Boylan said there have been close calls this winter with sleds and a park bench, as well as the well cover located by the Dysart library.
Sled tracks caused damage to the freshly groomed skating oval in the park. But most worrisome to Boylan is that a pedestrian was nearly struck in front of the Lily Ann Thrift Store on York Street.
“What we’re trying to do is sort of direct people where we need them to be, versus where they can’t be,” she said. “We’re trying to be proactive, at the same time not saying, ‘you can’t come in here.’ That’s not it at all. But in the matter of public safety,
we have to do something now. Someone’s about to get hurt, and that’s obviously what we need to prevent.”
Snowmobilers are being asked to come off of Head Lake at the boat launch, not into the park. She said the layout of the town does pose some difficulty for snowmobilers to get as close to downtown businesses as possible without walking. The Official Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Driver’s handbook states, snowmobiles can travel “alongside public roads, between the shoulder and fence line (unless prohibited by the municipality)” and can’t travel “on the pavement of public roads where vehicles
drive or on the plowed portion of the shoulder” which makes York Street too narrow to safely ride on.
To try to alleviate what might be an annoyance for sledders with a lot of gear, and encourage visits to downtown businesses, Boylan had green snowmobile parking signs posted in a section of the Head Lake parking lot, unused when the warmer
weather farmers’ market isn’t in session and turned the spot into a snowmobile parking lot. Sledders parked there, adjacent to the caboose, could access Highland Street via the stairs from York Street.
“It’s a good opportunity to get off your sled and stretch your legs and go for a bite to eat,” she said.
On Dec. 22, the HCSA posted information about the bylaws, stating, “The HCSA knows riding sidewalks is not cool. Please stay off of all sidewalks,” and, “The HCSA is committed to being a good neighbour. This post is extremely important for the safety of everyone, pedestrians, motorists, and sledders alike.”
Even still, the announcement was met with some criticism of the bylaws by people who said they would, “choose to spend my money elsewhere.”
“Sounds like a real snowmobile friendly town,” wrote one commenter. “Sign me up for a visit.”
Another wrote, “Why don’t you just put a sign up you are not welcome here?”
Boylan stressed that snowmobilers are very important to the town and that Haliburton Village is very snowmobile-friendly.
“It’s so sad for me to see that, because it’s ultimately not at all what we’re doing,” said Boylan. “If anything I’m trying to protect their sport ... what would that do to their sport, if a pedestrian was struck in the town or somebody hit a park bench in the park with a sled?... I’m just trying to protect the citizens, because we need it all to work. It all has to flow, so we need to find a good compromise.”
Snowmobilers caught riding in the park face a $50 fine for the first offence and not more than $1,000 for each subsequent offence under By-law No. 91-55.