A Gander town councillor has agreed to take on an initiative to develop a regional ATV trail to attract more adventure tourism to central.
Coun. Oz Fudge said it is a vision that has been percolating for him personally for decades. At the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities conference in Gander last fall, Fudge said he brought up the idea during a presentation on tourism and was approached by a couple of Lewisporte councillors afterward.
“They said, ‘Out in Lewisporte, we are interested too,’ and they said, ‘Why don’t you see about heading up a committee and try to have a meeting with all municipalities throughout this region?’” Fudge said.
At the time, the Gander council was going through its budget process, so Fudge put the idea on the back burner, but now that the new year has begun, he said he is ready to take it on.
“I will be calling a meeting to see if we can get some of the local municipalities interested so that we can look at the trail systems that we have, how we can tie them in, how we can make them better, how we will advertise them,” he said. “There’s a long process we’ve got to go through, but we’re going to start that very soon.”
While municipal interest for the project is yet to be determined, there is already potential support from area ATV enthusiasts.
“I think expanding the area that can be explored by ATV/snowmobiles is a good thing for central,” said Joe Alteen of the Central Newfoundland ATV/SSVs group. “We have some of the best scenery in Canada, but most of it is hard to access due to the lack of trails. Enhancing our current trail system also boosts tourism; people from all over the world come to ride our trails.”
The group, he said, is also ready to provide assistance.
“We have over 200 members who ride the trails all across the island,” he said, suggesting their role might include “possible volunteer work, or just advice on issues/concerns with current trails that should be avoided when developing a new one.”
Fudge acknowledged there are many hurdles to be cleared, including provincial and municipal financial support, but noted the greatest obstacle could be public perception.
“One of the biggest worries I have right now, and I’ve already talked to some councillors from other jurisdictions just in casual, is people have to get (rid of) that image of, for lack of better words, that young punk on a quad or on a dirt bike popping wheelies, racing up and down the streets, that’s not what we’re talking about,” he said.
“What we’re talking about it having a proper trail system, so that if you live in Saskatchewan, and you’re looking for a place to go for a week of ATVing, you want to go out and see the countryside, what we’re going to try to do is say, ‘OK, we have this’, and the tourism money will follow.”
There is currently no timeline for the initiative, but Fudge is optimistic.
“Once the ball gets rolling, you can get it done pretty fast because I’m told there are lots of trails out there and all it takes is to connect them up,” he said.
A spokesperson for Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Mitchelmore said the department is not currently aware of the idea and declined to comment on whether it is something the province would get behind.