An increase in illegal off-road vehicle antics, and a fatal motorcycle accident over the long weekend, has some Tulameen residents demanding change in their usually laid-back resort community.
At the same time , RCMP are planning increased patrols to target off-road vehicle violations in the region, and are looking into solutions for local residents.
“Every year since we have been here there has been a fatality on a quad or a fatality on a dirt bike,” said Randy Halyk.
“I guess the biggest problem is on the long weekends here when all of a sudden the town goes from 200 to 2,000 people. We have machines everywhere. It’s like an ATV and side-by-side explosion..I think there’s a feeling when you come to Tulameen it’s lawless and you can do what you want.”
Halyk is a director of the Tulameen Ratepayers Association, which is organizing a meeting June 2 for concerned property owners who want to keep their streets safe and quiet year round.
He said the problems range from quad and bike riders racing through residential areas, to parents allowing young children to drive off-road vehicles on the pavement without supervision.
“There’s things, like they do wheelies all the way down Otter Avenue..right in the middle of town, to show off I guess. There is one guy, and another guy behind him and another one behind him. The other problem is at night there’s no helmets and no lights and they are driving quads and dirt bikes through town. I guess they are going from party to party, but that’s dangerous.”
A 22-year-old Surrey man, who had just purchased a home with his mother in Tulameen, died May 20 after his motorcycle left the road and plunged 25 feet into Otter Lake.
RCMP are still investigating that crash, as well as an incident the following day near Coalmont when an ATV rider suffered head and leg injuries in an accident.
“The worst thing I’ve seen, and this is a couple of years ago, there was a guy doing a wheelie right in front of our place and there was a family with young kids. He wiped out in front of them and missed a little girl by five or six feet. If he had been over a little bit more he could have killed that little girl.”
Gerald Kuva, who retired to Tulameen with his wife two years ago after visiting the area regularly for eight years, said he believes there needs to be more education about off-road vehicle safety.
This week Kuva ordered 25 street signs that say: Slow. Respect Our Community. He plans to erect them in strategic locations.
“The weekend warriors come up and they just wreak havoc in the town. They just run amok through the streets and it goes right from dawn until sometimes two or three in the morning.”
Kuva has seen kids as young as 12 driving off road vehicles through the streets.
“They let their kids jump in these high powered machines and run up and down the roads. Seriously? Tulameen is not a babysitting service.”
Both Halyk and Kuva are off-road vehicle riders, and both say that by speaking out on the issue they risk drawing the ire of some residents who don’t want to see an increased police presence in town.
“We have talked to people who are supposed to be leaders in our community and they just say ‘we don’t want to change anything, we want to keep it the same.’”
RCMP Corporal Chad Parsons said complaints about recreational vehicles are not uncommon in the spring and summer, and last year police issued several tickets in the Tulameen area.
“We do increased patrols in the area. This year there will be seasonal police patrols on quads looking for ATVs driving on the street, or that aren’t registered or don’t have insurance, people riding without helmets and people driving dangerously. So there will be enhanced service for that.”
He said riders can apply at the detachment for special permits that would allow them to cross specific roads, and allow access to the trail.
“There are permits available to allow limited access to the KVR and the forest service roads for both Tulameen and Coalmont,” he said. “These are permits to access trails, not to go do your grocery shopping or to bring a cooler down to the beach and back.”
Halyk said there are many residents who drive their off road vehicles on the street in a responsible manner, and admitted he takes his vehicle to the gas station before heading off to the bush.
“I still want to be able to drive out of my driveway, get to the KVR and go for a ride on my quad. Am I breaking the law? Yes, if I’m doing that I’m breaking the law.”
He said he wants to broker some kind of compromise to keep the worst offenders in check.
Regional district Area H director Bob Coyne said the RDOS cannot intervene.
“Our position is that we support the laws of the province and the laws of the province are enforced by the RMCP and therefore we can’t be involved in the discussion they would like to have…There is no leeway. If it’s not a licensed motor vehicle and it’s on the road you are subject to a $600 fine, end of discussion.”
Coyne said the suggestion that police crack down on just some riders “sounds like having your cake and eating it too…The people who have contacted me felt that they should be able to get on their bike and ride it from their house down to the KVR or off to the forest service roads, but people who come to town shouldn’t be able to do that.”
However he expressed empathy with some peoples’ frustration.
“It’s a situation that is kind of out of control, a little bit. The province didn’t make any ATV rules for many, many years and now we have got rules and those rules don’t coincide with the lifestyle that a lot of people have enjoyed out in the Tulameen area and a lot of other areas as well.”
The Tulameen Ratepayers Association meeting is Saturday June 2, 11 a.m., at the Tulameen Community Hall.
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