Going for a ride in a fancy limousine can be cool, but that’s not what all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts come to western Newfoundland to experience.
Yet, that is one way Craig Borden tries to sometimes make up for the fact the ATV tours he leads are unable to easily travel continuously through the entire region.
Borden is the general manager of Rugged Edge, a business that caters to outdoor recreational pursuits such as ATV and snowmobile riding.
Part of that business these days involves arranging the transport of tourists and their ATVs between Corner Brook and Pasadena or Deer Lake as there is no reliable trail they can follow on the machines.
There are trails, but they are mainly snowmobile trails that only snow machines can easily get over once there is ample snow coverage. They are too rough or narrow for the wheeled vehicles to easily use once the snow has melted.
Any other route through Corner Brook is either hazardous or would require breaking the law banning all-terrain vehicles from being driven on public roadways.
Many ATV tours will avail of the Newfoundland T’Railway that follows the route of the railway bed that once carried locomotives across the island until they were stopped in 1988. However, that trail ceases around Pasadena and, after some sections coursing through the city of Corner Brook, doesn’t pick up again until the Logger’s School Road area west of the city.
Current bylaws prohibit the use of ATVs or snowmobiles on city streets and walking trails such as the existing portions of the railway route through Corner Brook.
While he doesn’t expect the city to permit ATVs and snowmobiles on all city streets, Borden said there are a few things that can be done to improve access to the city. Plans are already under way to try and better connect the Lundrigan Drive Industrial Park area — where Borden’s business is located — to the groomed snowmobile trail network not too far away from there.
As there is no provincial ATV association, the work would require the involvement of the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation and the Western Sno-Riders, the federation’s member club for the Corner Brook area.
Borden said there may be opportunities for other access points so riders can get into Corner Brook and access gas stations, hotels and restaurants.
Improving access would be an economic gain for the city, he said. Riders that start their cross-island trek on the eastern side of the province, noted Borden, will usually wait until they get to the bigger centre of Corner Brook later in their journey to buy souvenirs or go for a nice meal at a restaurant.
Those tourism dollars go elsewhere when ATV riders are trucked past Corner Brook, said Borden.
Tony Sheppard, the snowmobile federation’s general manager, said there is indeed a plan to reroute a section of trail in the eastern end of the Lundrigan Drive area to better connect with the groomed trail south of that.
Years ago, snowmobile trails were required to leave 18-inch stumps on them to keep ATVs off them in the summer. That practice is no longer followed as it meant a lot of snowfall was required before trails could be groomed.
A smoother snowmobile trail when there is no snow just happens to make it much more feasible for ATVs, too.
While the federation’s mandate remains snowmobile trail maintenance, Sheppard said improving trails that ATVs can also use, especially between Corner Brook and Pasadena, would be great for riders and local businesses alike.
Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons said the City of Corner Brook has been working with the snowmobile federation and local businesses to improve access, particularly in the Lundrigan Drive area. The city is also exploring other ways ATVs and snowmobiles may be able to access certain areas of the city such as gas stations, hotels and restaurants.
Parsons said those access points could also be around the Confederation Drive area and a connection between the Riverside Drive and Mount Moriah areas.
“We are looking at what it would take to accomplish such a thing,” said Parsons, adding that some roads that could be involved are maintained by the provincial government and any plan would also have to involve that entity.
Parsons said access within city limits would have to be done carefully with safety of residents always a priority. Of course, cost is another important factor and the city is looking into helping source funding to make improved access a reality.
The City of Corner Brook recently decommissioned the area known as the old Curling water supply near the Lundrigan Drive area. While Parsons said developing this area will require plenty of long-term planning, the availability of this land could involve opening it up for more recreational use than is currently permitted.