As you may be aware, the Province of Ontario is in second reading of Bill 100, Supporting Ontario’s Trails Act, 2015. This Bill was introduced by Minister of Tourism Michael Coteau to help develop and enhance the trail infrastructure in Ontario. The Ministry consulted over 250 different trail groups and organizations encompassing hikers, bikers, snowmobilers, ATVers, canoeists/kayakers, birdwatchers and so on to develop this Bill. The Bill itself makes changes to nine existing laws as well as creating new legislation in supporting of Ontario trails on public or private land. The primary misunderstandings about this Bill relate to the section pertaining to easements. The focus of the remainder of this letter will be dispelling the misinformation being presented about easements.
Before we get into too much detail, the BEAST Snowmobile Club would like to take this opportunity to reassure our private landowners that we do not support this Bill. For the marginal benefit a few changes to existing laws would provide, the resulting anxiety from our landowners is not worth it. The BEAST would also like you to know that we have no intention of utilizing easements to secure trails. Our current Land Use Permission (LUP) has served us well for many years and we will continue to use it. Our intent is not to impede your property rights or handcuff you if you wish to make changes. We are only grateful guests on your land and with respect would like to continue that relationship.
Land Use Permission vs Easement
The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) has used LUPs for over forty years. Basically, the LUP is a contract between the local snowmobile club and the landowner. It describes where the trail is, when access is granted, a cancellation notice period and whatever else both parties deem useful. It is used by the OFSC to ensure that its third party liability insurance covers that snowmobile trail on that property.
An easement is a contract surveyed and registered on title at the Ontario Land Registry office. This easement can be expensive to attain and must have landowner approval. Getting and registering an easement is an entirely voluntary action by the landowner.
Tom Black of the Ontario Landowners Association has been quoted as saying that “even oral agreements are easements.” This is false. An easement is registered on the title. None of our LUPs are registered on the title and they cannot be made into easements as a result of Bill 100.
It has also been suggested that easements can be imposed on landowners. Wrong again. Nothing in Bill 100 imposes easements on anyone.
Landowners, at all times, determine the terms and conditions of any and every agreement.
Your property, your rights!
There was a good article in the Ottawa Valley Business a couple of weeks back titled “Ego Versus Ethics” (Issue 179, April 5, 2016). When you have a moment, please read it.
What is the truth? The right for a landowner to create an easement already exists, but it is our understanding that if a landowner currently allows an easement it is registered on that property title in perpetuity—365 days a year every year until another legal application to remove or change it. Under Bill 100, there would be greater flexibility on the covenants of an easement. For example, a landowner could specify that the easement is from December 1st to March 31st and has a duration of five years. Any potential new owner of that piece of land could see that the easement would expire at some point.
Again, the BEAST Snowmobile Club emphasizes that we are not interested in easements and prefer to use our LUPs.
It has been rumoured that any LUP from OFSC can allow other trail users to use our agreement to access the trail. This is also incorrect. The LUP we have with each landowner is only between the BEAST/OFSC and that landowner. If the landowner wishes to grant access to other trail groups, our LUP does not cover those groups.
The OFSC will continue to use the time-tested LUPs. We are not interested in pursuing easements. We realize we are only guests on your property, and we would like to continue that relationship.
In closing, the BEAST thanks all of our landowners who have graciously offered their land for our trails. We hope this letter helps in your understanding of the facts about Bill 100.
Ottawa Valley Business, Ego versus ethics, issue 179 (5 April 2016): www.ovbusiness.com/userfiles/file/2016%20Issues/Ottawa%20Valley%20Business%20-%20April%205%2C%202016.pdf
Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Bill 100, Supporting Ontario’s Trails Act, 2016: www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&Intranet=&BillID=3338
Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, Landowner concerns in respect of access for snowmobile trails: www.ofsc.on.ca/content/landowner-concerns-respect-access-snowmobile-trails
Ontario Trails News, MPP Randy Hillier, founder of Ontario Landowners Association, responds to OLA claims in the Lanark Era: ontariotrails.blogspot.ca/2016/02/ontario-trails-news-misinformation.html
April 2016 Monthly Column by MPP John Yakabuski about Bill 100.
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