ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles) come in all shapes, sizes and prices…from a kiddie’s wheeler to a quad wheeler with all the bells and whistles – there’s something for anyone who is looking to get involved in this fast-growing pastime.

It used to be a wheeler was transportation to get around a farm to check livestock and fences, or a way to get to the camp for a weekend of fishing or hunting, but with miles of groomed trails and a wheeler, it is quickly becoming a popular sport for many people.   Today, enthusiasts take to the trails for numerous reasons…some may want the adrenalin rush of the “power sport” while others are getting back in touch with the great outdoors.

The province’s intricate groomed trail system has made “wheeling” a sport which attracts, not only New Brunswickers, but is drawing neighbors from other provinces and the United States. 

Roger Daigle, President of the NB ATV Federation tells us “Our trail system is different from one end of the province to the other. We have anything any ATV rider is looking for, from some very challenging trails for experienced riders to some very family-oriented trails that will take you on a pleasant ride with lots of beautiful scenery along brooks, streams, beaver ponds, lakes and rivers.” 

Presently, there are approximately 12,000 kilometers of trails in the province, some are managed, and some are still being worked on.  Of the 12,000 kilometers, there is about 6000 kilometers that are also groomed winter trails.

Our trail system is different from one end of the province to the other.

We have anything any ATV rider is looking for.

The popularity of the sport has seen the organization of 56 ATV clubs in the province.  As of December 31st of 2017, there were approximately 52 thousand registered ATVs in the province and 20808 members. These various clubs sponsor organized “runs” 2 – 3 times a year with 100’s of members participating.   And even though the popularity of the sport has grown exponentially, the clubs and bikers themselves continue to face challenges to enjoy this pastime.   A common theme is the lack of amenities available for people enjoying the trails.  In some communities, it is against the law to travel 50 feet on the side of the road to gain access to gas, food and lodging while in some communities, such as Boiestown and Doaktown, the mayors have welcomed riders to their respective communities.  They encourage them to spend the night, get fuel and food which has resulted in a boost to tourism in the area.

In the past, wheeling was not considered a tourism product, but after years of determination and perseverance by the provincial federation and local chapters, the provincial government has finally sat up and taken notice.  In early June the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture announced funding for the Tourism’s “Trail Action Plan” which will see $15.8 million dollars poured into the province’s trail system.  Possibly this was due in part to a survey conducted by consultants, “Smith Gunther Associates Ltd.” this past May which reported that ATVing in New Brunswick has contributed 358 million dollars to the New Brunswick economy in 2017. This is money that has not left the province and stayed within this province.   Mr. Daigle is hopeful the announcement of funding from the government will make the sport even more popular, thus further boosting tourism revenue for our province.  “We are also looking at getting legal access to motels, hotels, restaurants and gas stations. Once our trails system is complete and with legal access to those facilities, we will quadruple our contributions to the economy.”   At present there is an agreement with Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario where if they are members of their Federations, they do not need to buy our trail permits and the same is true for people from New Brunswick visiting these provinces.

 

What was once considered a male-dominated sport, ATVing is quickly becoming a family-oriented activity.

With the introduction of side by sides and 4 and 6 seaters, it is now common to see families participating in organized runs or 2 or 3 machines out for a run by themselves.  You will even see wheelers with infants strapped into their car seats and some clubs organize female only runs.  Another participant who can be over-looked in other sports are persons with disabilities, who can now enjoy this sport with the introduction of side by sides.

Daigle feels the sport has changed drastically in the past 5 years which is evident with the increase in members.  In 2013 there were just over 16,000 members and they expect to surpass 22,000 before the end of 2018.  Bob Randall, President of the Nashwaak Valley ATV Club tells us they see the “ATV market changing with the introduction of multi-passenger side by sides as there are more families enjoying the sport than ever before.”   ATVs are more comfortable, they have a better ride and have more options such as power steering.

And as with anything in life…with the good comes the not so good.  Vandalism to private property incidents do happen.  However, the clubs are committed to working with the property owners – both private and public to try and find a solution to prevent the vandalism from recurring and in most cases will assist with repairs and costs.  Unfortunately, this takes time and resources away from improving trails and enjoying the sport.   Jim McGregor, President of the Rusagonis ATV Club and Chief Safety Officer says they try to educate participants about the laws and promoting safe, responsible riding.  “Most riders want to do the right thing; we have safe, legal and environmentally responsible managed rails and encourage ATVers to use them.  The ATVer’s motto is “Be respectful to the land owners, be respectful to other trail users and stay on the trail”. We also host ATV Safety Training courses every year which are open to all but focus mainly on kids 6 – 16 years old.”

We asked how the increase in popularity of side by sides has changed the sport.  Reports are they have increased the number of members and it has become more of a family sport than before.  Ken Legge, President of the York County West ATV Club told shopfredericton “I think it has had a positive influence in that there are more families partaking and with the 4 seaters, it is a great way to introduce people to the sport who don’t own ATVs.”  Provincially, there has been a shift to side by sides.  Last year the estimate was 60% ATVs to 40% side by sides.  This year it appears to be a 50/50 split and next year clubs are expecting side by sides to surpass the number of ATVs.

Whatever your preference, budget and style…it sounds like owning an ATV and hitting the trails in New Brunswick – by yourself or with a group – it sounds like a great way to spend your leisure time!