Quad bike plan for parks troublesome’
Plans to use quad bikes in Bermuda’s parks and on the Railway Trail need an impact assessment, environmental watchdogs said yesterday.
The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Task Force warned that environmental, economic and social factors had to be examined to avoid “unintended consequences” of allowing commercial operators to use all- terrain vehicles in these areas.
The call from the charity came after West End residents and environmentalists questioned plans, approved by former OBA environment minister Sylvan Richards, to introduce ATV tours to the Railway Trail in Somerset.
BEST said the proposal “raises troublesome issues” and called for the scheme to be “thought through thoroughly”.
The group added: “Consultation with the public and railway right of way defenders is a must so that we don’t find down the road that we have taken another step harming Bermudians, offending and turning off bread-and-butter tourists and furthering injury and death.
“BEST calls for an environmental, economic, and social impact assessment so that we are truly informed and know what we are doing, thus avoiding unintended consequences.”
BEST’s chief advocacy officer Stuart Hayward added: “With so few open spaces available in Bermuda, all of which are desperately needed for the health and wellbeing of Bermudians, it is disturbing that this plan appears to have been approved without the appropriate assessments, public consultations and, we understand, against the recommendations of the Parks Commission.”
The group added that the island had already experienced problems due to previous changes in transport policy.
It said: “An example is the change in law about ten years ago allowing increased motorcycle size and power.
“Whatever the arguments for this — which might have seemed quite valid at the time — there have been and continue to be ‘unintended consequences’.”
BEST said more powerful bikes had led to more frequent and serious accidents, made enforcement more difficult for police, and may have encouraged people already illegally racing bikes in Hog Bay Park.
The group added: “Further, enabling this ATV plan will completely lose the original intention for including our railway trail in the parks system, preserving it as quiet, linear open space.
“Laws and regulations will need to be changed, paving the way for greater erosion of our parks as areas of safe, quiet, family friendly venues for walkers, joggers, children, dogs, horses, tourists and those simply wishing to enjoy time in nature.”
Mr Richards said in an online statement last month that the idea was for “low-powered silenced ATV’s along part of the railway trail in Somerset only”. He added that tours would not operate on Sunday and parts of the trail would be off-limits to ATVs.
The plan sparked opposition on social media and Greenrock’s director Jonathan Starling highlighted a lack of consultation. Neither the Ministry of Public Works nor the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources replied to requests for comment yesterday.
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