Chronicles

Motorized "recreational" Vehicles


        Back in the spring, a friend of mine was leading a group of people from Halifax on an exploratory walking tour in the area around Dalhousie Mountain. They had just started up the trail when they were buzzed by a couple of young fellows on an ATV. This happened on a path that is designated as being off-limits to ATV users. The walkers, incidentally, were from a group interested in establishing formal walking tours in various areas of New Brunswick and my friend was trying to convince them that the walk up Dalhousie Mountain was one that should be considered for the tour. The ATV riders very quickly put an end to that discussion.

        I was leading a group of local naturalists on a walk along the New Brunswick hiking trail in behind Squaw Cap. This trail is designated as off-limits to ATVS. We saw five or six that evening, plus a half-ton truck and a passenger car - all on the walking trail. When one of my companions confronted one of the ATV riders, he responded to her with a one-finger salute and proceeded to spin his wheels for about a hundred metres along the footpath.

        Several acquaintances have just come back form a kayak trip over to Heron Island. They were appalled to have seen several enterprising young people who had managed to transport an ATV and a dirt bike over to the Island for the sole purpose, it would seem, of tearing up the beaches. Herons Island, I understand, is supposed to be off-limits to all mechanized vehicles. In fact, two years ago, you were supposed to have permission even to pitch a tent, and clam digging was strictly regulated. Now, it seems, anything goeson that beautiful and very special island.

        Another acquaintance has just returned from a weekend on Miscou Island. He was shocked to have witnessed a full-scale ATV convention travelling on the beach at the tip of the island, indiscriminately damaging a priceless and fragile bit of nature.

        A couple of Sundays ago, I was leading a group of kayakers from Inch Arran Park. As we were assembling in the little cove, at least six very large and powerful motor boats gathered. Several of them were aware of us in the kayaks but at least two of them seemed to find it entertaining to create waves, perhaps in an effort to see if we could swim, but certainly in total disregard for our safety. Why they were there and not over at the Marina is a question to which I could find no answer.

        I could go on, but perhaps you catch my drift. Motorized recreational vehicles are beginning to dominate our parks, our preserves, beaches, hiking trails, and other supposed sanctuaries in the same way that cars and trucks dominate our streets and roadways. When I saw an advertisement recently for a trail bike that has power in both wheels and that the advertisement proudly boasted could "go anywhere that a deer or moose could go" I realized that it won't be long before some clown will be posing for photographs for all the newspapers, claiming to be the first person to conquer the Appalachian Trail without having had to walk a step.

        We get into a panic over the threat of West Nile virus because several people die in North America each year from the disease. In the meantime, several hundred people die each week from accidents caused by ATVs, motor boats, and other forms of "recreation" while we seem to nod in approval, or at least acceptance. In the meantime, we waste more and more gasoline; we cause pollution and environmental destruction; we encourage our young people to become fatter and lazier, and to develop an ever more callous regard for the world around us.

        How sad that is.         This article appeared in the Campbellton Tribune, in Mike's "Grains of Sand" column. It is reproduced with Mike's permission.

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