Bill 100, Trails Act, passes provincially

TORONTO—Under Bill 100, Supporting Ontario’s Trails Act, 2016 was voted on and passed by the Ontario legislature this past Tuesday. Under the Act, the granting of easements by property landowners to snowmobile clubs and other clubs will remain on a voluntary basis.

“Bill 100 passed this afternoon, not unanimously, but it went through with the amendments that had been proposed,” stated Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha on Wednesday. “On Monday all three parties spoke in favour of it. I’m quite confident that landowners and snowmobile clubs will be comfortable with the way the Bill has been written up. One of the main issues that has been raised was that historic easements to property would remain voluntary for landowners, and that is the case with this bill. I’m looking forward to the meeting on the Island June 16 to set landowners and the Snowdusters members minds at ease, and especially indicate that the historical agreements that have been in place with landowners and the snowmobile club will, has and will continue on a voluntary basis.”

“The Bill was to be debated in the legislature on Tuesday and voted on Wednesday,” said Brad Middleton, spokesperson for the Manitoulin Snowdusters on Tuesday morning. “We didn’t know the bill would be in place before the snow flies this year.”

“One thing we are very happy about in the amended Bill is that they really clarified and made real improvements about easements to property,” said Mr. Middleton. “Granting of easements will remain voluntary.”

Under section 12 (3.1) of Bill 100 regarding the granting of easements you will note that it is voluntary, said Mr. Middleton. It states, “Granting of easements (3) An owner of land may grant an easement, with covenants, to one or more eligible bodies, (a) for the preservation, enhancement or management of the use of, or access to, all or a portion of the land for purposes relating to activities relating to trails; (b) for the creation, maintenance or management of trails for public use; or (c) for the purposes as may be presented by the regulations made under this Act.”

“Granting of easement voluntary (3.1) For greater certainty, the decision to grant an easement under subsection 3) is voluntary. Easement reserved by a body,” this section states.

“In other words, nobody can now force the landowner to grant an easement, whether it be a snowmobile club or anybody else. That should put a lot of minds to rest,” said Mr. Middleton.

Mr. Middleton did state, however, “One thing we wanted changed-dropped under this bill was the trail of distinction. Under section five the minister can declare a particular trail ‘an Ontario trail of distinction.’ People were upset last winter when this came out because landowners saw this as a back door way of getting an easement for a trail across their property. In other words, once the trail was declared one of distinction landowners feared they would not be allowed to discontinue the land permission they had previously granted, to get rid of the trail at the time of their choosing, usually when they go to sell the land to a new buyer. Understandably, landowners will not want this in place. We all realize they are giving clubs like ours (Snowdusters) access to their property out of the goodness of their heart.”

“The historical voluntary easements process will remain,” said Mr. Mantha. “I will be explaining this process and provide clarification on this. I will be recommending to landowners that this is a voluntary process and I will tell them that if they provide an easement they need to make sure it is iron clad as to who is using their property for a trail and what time period this is being provided for. No one has agreed to an easement on Manitoulin that I know of, and I will be meeting with the Snowdusters and local landowners at the meeting June 16 to clarify this and other issues that may arise.”

Mr. Middleton said, “one concern I had is that on the one hand, most of the clubs in Ontario were of the view that Bill 100 would not be voted on until this fall, and the summer would be spent for the stakeholders, such as snowmobile clubs, to have more input into the final product (the final version of the Act). This is in keeping with the story that ran in the Recorder last week, based on your conversation with Mr. Mantha. So, you can understand that at the local level, we were quite surprised when this vote in the legislature was sprung on us early this week.”

“On the other hand, the source of the information that there was to be a big debate on Bill 100 in the legislature at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, followed by a vote on it Wednesday, comes straight from an email circulated by Mike Clewer at OFSC headquarters in Barrie, who is our Director of Strategy and Business Development at OFSC.”