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Parts / July 2, 2023

The portion of the West Perth Thames Nature Trail that winds through the West Perth Woodlands is constantly being torn up by ATV riders who use the trail contrary to a West Perth bylaw that prohibits such activity on that land. Former deputy mayor Gerry Kehl brought the issue before the Police Services Board at their March 23 meeting. SUBMITTEDIn former West Perth deputy mayor Gerry Kehl's mind, ATV use on the West Perth Woodlands trails has gotten to the point where it's not only ruining the experiences of hikers and joggers who wish to use the trails, but it's also threatening the very trees that make up the woodlands.

Kehl and his wife Patty are so concerned about ATV use in the woodlands that they appeared before the West Perth Police Services Board March 23 to make a presentation about the issue and suggest possible solutions, or at least ideas that might help curb ATV use on that stretch of the West Perth Thames Nature Trail.

“At one time these walking trails were beautiful, they were serene, it was a magnificent place to go for a run or a peaceful stroll and the trails were in place to reconnect with nature, ” Kehl began. “...But then, devastation. We have four-wheelers out there and now our woodlands walking trails have been destroyed. There's huge ruts filled with water and mud, it's no longer a pleasant place. There's nowhere to walk safely, tree roots are being laid bare – eventually killing the trees.”

Kehl explained that although there is a municipal bylaw prohibiting motorized vehicles from being operated in designated areas such as on the nature trail – with a $300 fine stipulated for those who don't obey – and there have been signs installed in the past stating such, those measures have done very little to save the trail from destruction. Signs have been vandalized and destroyed, while the bylaw – for the most part – has gone unenforced.

“There's no perfect solution, but here are some methods that have worked in other communities; controlled entrance ways with concrete fencing and large rocks as a central removable barricade, ” Kehl offered.

Considering the lack of signage and knowledge of the corresponding bylaw, Kehl said he doesn't blame the ATV riders who use the woodlands trails, which is why he asked the Police Services Board, especially the OPP representatives on the board, to verbally explain the rules of the woodlands to those caught misusing the trails to try and keep the issue from continuing.

As for residents who may notice trail misuse, Kehl asks that they call the Sebringville OPP detachment at 519-393-6123 so police can handle the infraction. To the representatives of West Perth council who sit on the Police Services Board, Kehl asked that they spread word and engage the public in some form of education about the bylaw.

“We should put some information in the schools because that's where most of your culprits are coming from, but I would also suggest that when (the ATVs) are covered in mud and they need new parts and everything they would go to the (ATV) dealers. So I would suggest that you make up a big notice that you are not allowed here and this is bylaw rules and have (the dealers) put them up in their windows, ” suggested Coun. Larry Wight.

West Perth detachment commander Manny Coehlo told Kehl and the board that he had dealt with a similar problem in his hometown of Listowel, and although public education and putting up barricades do work fairly well, he said bylaw enforcement and handing out fines is the only thing some ATV riders respond to. He also reinforced Kehl's suggestion that anyone who sees misuse of the trails by ATV riders should call the OPP to report it.