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As trail options shrink, Sudbury may allow snow machines to cross city streets

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Greater Sudbury is considering updating its snowmobile bylaw to allow the vehicles to cross sections of Bancroft Drive and Moonlight Beach Road.

The problem, according to a staff report headed to the operations committee March 27, is that connections to official snow machine trails on the Sudbury Trail Plan are being lost.

"The (Broder-Dill Snowmobile) Association has identified that moving snowmobilers out of the core is becoming (increasingly) difficult as residential and commercial development expands," the report said.

"The ability to move trails gets severely limited as new subdivisions are created and industrial areas expand."

Compounding the problem is a decision by railway companies to prohibit snowmobiles from crossing the tracks in most areas.

"Approximately three years ago, CP Rail (and CN Rail to a large degree) revoked all private rail crossings and rail line corridor access across the province for snowmobile clubs," the report said.

"Users can only cross rail lines at public crossing (i.e. controlled crossings on public roads). As a result, snowmobilers lost the primary north/south connection between Estaire and Coniston. To date, a replacement has not been found."

That means riders on the club’s main north-south trail, called D111, are blocked at the Bancroft/Moonlight area.

"The trail comes out just before the CP Rail crossing on Moonlight Beach Road, then runs the shoulder of the road up the intersection of Moonlight Beach Road and Bancroft Drive," the report said.

"The intersection is a four-way stop. The trail then turns right (east) onto Bancroft Drive and travels almost 200 metres on the shoulder before crossing to the north side and entering the wooded area."

Because the current bylaw prohibits snow machines from crossing those streets, riders have no way to move north or south.

"Losing the D111 trail would be a significant loss, impacting not only local riders, but snowmobile tourism to the Sudbury area," the report said.

"Several local motels and businesses will suffer meaningful loss because snowmobilers from out of town will look for other areas in the city to stay and access the trails."

That’s significant, the report said, because this district (District 12) is the second-most visited in all of Ontario.

"Last year, the association saw 10.8 per cent (11,534) of all Ontario permit-buying riders visit this district to ride these trails," the report said.

"That generates approximately $52 million in tourism revenue annually in the area in terms of visitor spending, not to mention employment opportunities connected to snowmobiling."

Sudbury police and the city’s traffic department have not objected to the changes, the report said.

The full report headed to the committee March 27 can be found here.

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