If you’re one of the many West Shore residents who like to take the road less travelled, and get your tires dirty while exploring all this area has to offer, the province’s new Off Road Vehicle Act could impact you.
As of Nov. 1, licence plates are mandatory for quads, dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles (ORV), a regulation that comes with a one-time, $48 licensing fee. As well, helmets are required for all riders, and use by children under 16 is restricted in the province’s back country, including Crown-owned land.
Jeff Evernden, owner of the Westshore Motocross Park, said there’s a lot of confusion amongst his customers about how the new regulations will affect them.
“People think it’s a cash grab but there’s two sides to every coin. It could be good if it’s handled properly,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see.”
Evernden’s facility, behind Western Speedway, is private property and as such is not impacted by the new regulations. But many of its users also take their bikes into areas targeted by the legislation, which is aimed at anyone riding on Crown land.
“When you look at the designation of Crown land it’s really big,” he said, adding that the closest such area to the West Shore is near the top of the Malahat.
The problem, Evernden said, is there is still confusion over what is considered Crown land and what is private property. He questioned whether Crown land that is leased, to logging companies for example, is considered private and therefore exempt from the regulations. Similar questions arise over properties surrounding utility items such as power lines.
“They’re implementing something without putting the answers out there,” he said.
And Evernden has tried to track down those answers. He sent his concerns to the contacts listed on the province’s website dedicated to the new regulations but has yet to hear back. “This is mainly geared towards the mainland. I can’t see much happening here on the Island.”
Bill Rai, owner of Maxxam Insurance and Realty, 867 Goldstream Ave., said while they have not had too many West Shore residents come in to register their vehicles, there has been some confusion on the new regulations, adding that like everything else, it would take time to educate brokers and the public.
ORV registration is integrated within the pre-existing structure of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s motor vehicle registry and vehicles can be registered at any insurance broker.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson said the $48 licence fee applies only once when a vehicle is purchased and was set to recover the costs of the program administered by ICBC. Once startup costs are paid for, Thomson said a portion of the licence revenue will go to off-road clubs to use for trail improvements. He also said the registration will help combat vehicle theft and promote responsible use of ORVs while keeping users safe.
The province estimates there are 200,000 off-road vehicles that require licensing, including snowmobiles. About 35,000 of those have been registered voluntarily since the new licences were offered a year ago.
Evernden also raised the point that if they are now paying, they should be provided somewhere to ride legally locally. He added that this would also help alleviate the number of riders trespassing in areas outside of the West Shore. But he fears the distinction between private and public property will still be left up to local law enforcement to determine.
A government spokesperson said enforcement duties will mainly be carried out by Natural Resource Officers and Conservation Officers but their initial focus will be on education until people become fully familiar with the new requirements.
The new legislation imposes a $230 fine for driving an unlicensed vehicle and a $368 fine for careless operation. For some offences under the Off-Road Vehicle Act related to reckless use or environmental damage, penalties can go as high as a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.
A West Shore RCMP spokesperson said the detachment has no special enforcement campaigns planned that relate to the new Off Road Vehicle Act.
For more information go to for.gov.bc.ca/mof/orv/.
– with files from