[Editor’s Note: The Nova Scotia Share Our Trails Association (NSSOTA) sent a detailed response on July 12, 2019 to a letter from Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Ian Rankin about the restrictions on the use of rail trails. At the Cooperator’s request, NSSOTA provided the edited version of their letter below. You can find a link to the full NSSOTA response on the Cooperator website by clicking here.
We are the executive of Nova Scotia Share Our Trails Association (NSSOTA). Our membership is growing daily and we have support from several provincial like minded organizations including: Nova Scotia Equestrian Federation, ATV Association of Nova Scotia, Snowmobile Association of Nova Scotia, Marine Riders ATV, Nova Scotia Off Road Riders Association, Lake Charlotte ATV, & Safety Minded ATV.
We have been advised by several of our members that they received written responses from you in response to their letters regarding rail corridor access. Many were disappointed to realize that they received the same generic respons
Listed below are several points that represent our memberships thoughts and concerns:
1. What if the community group who is awarded the LOA is not actually representative of the community? Would it not be prudent for your department to ensure that the LOA holder represents the majority of residents? This seems to be the root of the current concerns for many residents. If you examine the document: "Making Connections -2014-19 Halifax Active Transportation Priorities Plan", on page 13, there is data from an on-line survey and virtually no responses from rural HRM. Yet this is the model that is being used to develop and determine access for the rural Eastern HRM rail corridor! And the majority of Eastern Shore residents are unaware of this document.
2. As you state, rail corridors are crown land. As such, any development or maintenance is ultimately financed by taxpayer's. The only group that currently pays users fees for trail development and maintenance are registered OHV's owners. Yet this group is denied access to certain rail corridors and welcome on other rail corridors. Access seems to be dependent on the LOA holder who seems to have the authority to determine access. If rail corridor access was standardized across the province, then the majority of issues would be eliminated.
3. Many of our members are residents of the Eastern Shore. And even though a rail corridor travels through their communities, they are advised to travel to another area of the province such as St. Margaret's Bay, Tatamagouche or the Annapolis Valley to travel on a rail corridor that is multi-user. Several of our members’ property abuts the rail corridor and several pay multiple trail development fees in OHV registrations. Sure they could spend more money and join an ATV club and have access to club developed and maintained trails, that are not necessarily on crown land. But there is no stipulation that requires one to join an ATV club to register or operate an OHV.
4. You stated in your generic letter: "Currently there are thousands of kilometers of trails and Crown roads that are available for off-highway vehicle riders to enjoy." The same statement could apply to non-motorized users of federal, provincial and municipal parks, beaches, and walking trails. Why are OHV users expected to travel long distances to access trails? Especially if their property abuts a rail corridor. If provincial rail corridors don't offer uniform and consistent access, then maybe they should be user-pay for all users regardless of the users’ means of access. For example: if a registered OHV owner lives in the Tatamagouche, they can access the rail corridor in their community, but if a registered OHV owner lives in Musquodoboit Harbour they have to travel elsewhere! Absolutely no consistency!
5. Your statement: "lack of legal connections for motorized users to continue along the rail trail". Our membership struggle to rationalize this statement. Logically, this would apply to all rail corridors in the province, as the majority of rail corridors have specific access points. [You can read the full unedited text of NSSOTA's letter here.