It wasn’t on the agenda, but the issue of motorized vehicles on the KVR trail had a lot of people revved up at council Monday night.
And the engine firing the loudest belonged to Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage.
“This feels good to get this off my chest,” he said, after the formal council meeting was adjourned and questions were entertained from the floor.
“No one will intimidate us. I want to be very clear that I will be listening to the core citizens of Princeton.”
Armitage said council is willing to “sit down and speak gently with gentle people.” However he blasted out-of-towners opposed to an ATV and motorbike ban that he claimed have unfairly attacked members of council on Facebook and in letters to the editor.
“Facebook blows a lot of smoke,” said Armitage.
If the abuse doesn’t stop “it will be a foggy day in Hades” before council considers the concerns of the motorized vehicle community, he said. “You won’t see it for the next three years. Enough is enough folks.
“I take great umbrage with people who don’t give five cents to Princeton but they have a hell of a lot to say about our beautiful town.”
Armitage relayed stories of Princeton residents who have felt unsafe on the trail because of ATVs and motorbikes, including a recent incident when two young mothers pushing baby strollers were frightened by an aggressive motor biker.
In April council deferred a proposed bylaw to ban motorized vehicles on the 3 km of the KVR trail that run through Princeton, citing the need for research and consultation. The bylaw was initially proposed after local trail users complained motorized vehicles create unnecessary noise and safety hazards for hikers and cyclists.
Residents of Area H have been vocal in their objections to a ban, and have suggested ATVers and trail bike riders contribute significantly to the local economy.
“I have a hard time buying that,” Armitage fired back Monday, suggesting Area H residents with concerns should address them to director Bob Coyne.
An ad hoc committee was formed in the spring. According to councillor Doug Pateman, that committee is now looking at a draft bylaw that would impose a motorized vehicle ban – to be enforced on a complaint basis – but would also permit exceptions for large groups who could go through an application process to open the trail for special events.
The details of that bylaw are now under legal review “This council reports to 2,788 people in Princeton. They are our bosses,” Pateman said.
Ironically, at least twenty members of the ATV community turned out to the council meeting under the mistaken impression councillors were reviewing the bylaw as for several days local Facebook groups featured posts indicating the issue was up for discussion and encouraging people opposed to the ban to come forward.
When they realized it was not on the agenda, most of them left as the meeting got underway.
Vic Bartell, a member of the Similkameen Valley Riders, remained in attendance urged council to continue to work with all interested parties.
“We want to work with. We want to work with you,” he said.
Councillor Jerome Tjerkstra said he hopes Princeton and Area H can work together to find common ground on the trail. “We don’t want to polarize this.”