In-town OHV ban under Traffic Safety Act, not local bylaw

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Some off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders in Slave Lake would like to drive their OHVs through town to the nearby trails. However, this is not allowed.

Other Slave Lakers get annoyed with the noise and damage the vehicles do to the grass, when people do this.

The law is on the side of people who don’t want OHVs driven in town.

Discussions around this topic often assume people aren’t allowed to ride OHVs in Slave Lake, because of a Town of Slave Lake bylaw, but it is because of the Traffic Safety Act (TSA).
The TSA bans OHV use on highways.

Under the TSA, it would be impossible to drive an OHV in town without going on a highway, because the TSA definition of a highway is extremely broad. It includes the right of way, sidewalks, alleys, and a lot of other things people don’t normally associate with the word highway.

However, the TSA does allow municipalities to create a bylaw to allow OHV use on the roads it has authority over.

Slave Lake has not done this.

It is worth noting that if Slave Lake did have a bylaw to allow OHV use, it would likely not apply to the ditches of Hwy. 88 or 2 as they are under provincial control. These are among the most frequent places to see OHV riders.

M.D. of Lesser Slave River allows some OHV use. It has at least two bylaws which mention OHVs.

The first is Bylaw 2007-07.

In hamlets and multi-lot subdivisions (five or more lots), people can drive their OHV on roadways “only to leave the hamlet or multi-lot subdivision and to return to the hamlet or multi-lot subdivision by the shortest route possible to their residence,” it says. Outside of hamlets unless there are signs prohibiting people from driving an OHV, people can drive them on the “to the right side of the driving and/or travelled surface,” between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., and no faster than 30 km/hr.

If these rules aren’t followed, there are five types of tickets, which range from $57 to $351.

The recent M.D. Open Spaces bylaw 2022-03 also includes a reference to OHVs.

This includes a $300 ticket for “unauthorized travel by OHV in an open space area on a non-designated trail, etc.” It also makes reference to abandoned off-highway vehicles, boats, etc.

This bylaw defines an open space as “any public land or property that is owned, leased or managed by the Municipal District including, but not limited to the following: campgrounds, boat launches, day-use areas, viewpoints, community complexes, playgrounds, parks, trails, staging areas, vacant land, municipal reserves, conservation reserves, and environmental reserves.”

The TSA defines an OHV as “any motorized mode of transportation built for cross-country travel on land, water, snow, ice or marsh or swamp land or on other natural terrain and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes, when specifically designed for such travel.”

There are various OHV trails on Crown and private land in the area, and it is a popular pastime. However, OHVs are not allowed in provincial parks, such as the Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park north of Slave Lake.

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