SNOWMOBILE – Court Decision Closes Trail Access
January 20, 2005
Filed under Features
A Quebec judge has stopped snowmobile access on a 25-mile stretch of the Petit Train du Nord corridor trail and authorized reparation payments to nearby residents in a case that could set a precedent across Canada.
On Dec. 1, Superior Court Justice Hélène Langlois said that snowmobile noise levels were unacceptable along the stretch trail, which runs between St. Faustin-Lac Carré and Labelle in the Laurentian region of the province. A portion of the trail runs through a municipal park within city limits and is a main corridor in the Quebec trail system.
The ruling states that no snowmobile trail on municipal property should be located within 100 meters of any residential dwelling. The current standard in the provence is 30 meters. Langlois also stated that the municipality was in error to allow the trail with 100 meters of homes.
She closed the trail and also ordered annual payments of $1,200 to go to 600 residents living within 100 meters of the trail, retroactive to 1997. Municipal and provincial governments are responsible for the payments, which could equal more than $8 million. Langlois reportedly assessed a $3 million finding against the municipality and $2 million against the government of Quebec for allowing the use of snowmobiles on the municipal land
The Federation de Clubs de Motoneige du Quebec (FCMQ), the provincial association, and its insurance company were named as a defendants but not in the final ruling. They are reviewing the case, but cannot appeal it.
Snowmobiling has an annual economic impact of $1.6 billion in the province, and is a popular winter destination for European tourists, namely the French. The anticipated economic impact of the trail closure is unknown, but is expected to be severe. Local businesses are already worried about the impact the closed trail could have on their operations.
Other groups in Quebec and throughout Canada are watching this case closely, as many sections of trail pass homes at a distance of less than 100 meters.
The FCMQ is asking the snowmobile public to respect the new rules.
“Only 38 of the 33,700 kilometers of trails in our provincial snowmobile trail network have been affected by the Superior Court decision. What is important at this stage is to prevent any other trail closures as a result of this ruling,” stated Raymond Lefebvre, Vice-President and CEO of the FCMQ. “Our clubs are hard at work getting ready for the coming season and we would encourage municipal authorities, as well as snowmobilers, to refrain from engaging in any actions which could threaten the rest of the network.”