Landowner says ‘no’ to providing property for Snowdusters trails

ONTARIO—At least one landowner on Manitoulin Island who has allowed use of his property for snowmobile trails to the Manitoulin Snowdusters Snowmobile Club in past years says he remains steadfast in not allowing this to continue, even with changes made to Bill 100, Supporting Ontario’s Trails Act, 2016. The amendments made under the Act and passed by the province last week includes that the granting of easements by property landowners to snowmobile clubs and other users would remain on a voluntary basis.

“No, I haven’t had the chance to look at Bill 100 so far,” said Sheguiandah farmer Bruce Wood. He said that regardless of changes that were made in Bill 100, “I have already made up my mind not to allow further use of my property.”

“Why should I support the Snowdusters or other clubs when they didn’t support me when I first brought forward the issue about concerns (with what was at the time a proposed bill, which was passed by the province last week) I had with the proposed bill. I brought forward my concerns to the Ontario Landowners’ Association and the Snowdusters, and it was said by the Snowdusters that I was just putting forward false information. We own the land, but they wouldn’t believe what we were saying and the concerns we brought forward.”

Mr. Wood said he will be going to a Manitoulin Snowdusters information meeting being held June 16 in Mindemoya, and will be bringing his point home again. “When I read the letter in the paper by Brad Middleton (Snowdusters spokesperson) that they would hate to lose landowner property for trails, but that the concerns we were raising were incorrect, I’m going to ask him at the meeting how many kilometers of trails he has running across his property.”

“If the Snowdusters would have done things right, and really looked into the concerns I had originally raised, things might have been different,” said Mr. Wood. “But originally the way the act had been proposed the OLA (Ontario Landowners’ Association) and I had concerns; this was the way we interpreted it. But it came out in the paper very arrogantly that the landowners were wrong about losing control of our property. If the landowners were wrong on the concerns we brought forward why were amendments made to the Bill (100)?”

“It is extremely hard to support anyone when people are saying things like this,” said Mr. Wood. “No, I can’t see why I would give permission to the Snowdusters now. As I said, when I originally brought it forward that there might be some issues, all that was said is that I was a guy that was stirring up trouble and that we were wrong with our concerns. I have provided my property to the Snowdusters for free for a long time, but I’ve made up my mind this won’t continue.”

The bill had originally been reintroduced into the legislature this past winter by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Coteau in large part due to an OLA information campaign that called on landowners to be cautious of Bill 100, indicating that if it passed, it would result in landowners having no control over land they once loaned to groups such as snowmobile clubs. At least two landowners on Manitoulin threatened to pull their trails from the Snowdusters trail system as a direct result of the bill.

As reported in last week’s edition of the Recorder, the amended Bill 100 was passed by the provincial government last week with changes having been made in committee. Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha reported that the two major concerns brought forward to him by local residents were both changed. One is that the historical practice of an agreement between landowners and users will continue, and secondly, an easement will also be on a voluntary basis.

Mr. Mantha is recommending that landowners do not enter into an easement but maintain the status quo. “I would recommend doing so if a club wants to make significant infrastructure investments on the property, and if an individual wants to do that, they should consult with a lawyer.” He said the historical practice of having agreements between landowners and clubs has worked for years, and will remain.