The land outside of urban Timmins is full of surprises; there are remains of abandoned mines and mills; there are brilliant waterfalls at the end of sparkling rivers and there are eye-popping lookout sites along the many rocks and ridges of the Canadian Shield.
The Timmins ATV club is helping outdoor enthusiasts see it all and raising the profile of “four-wheeling” for tourists and locals alike. Club leaders hope their work will boost the local economy and help a new generation gain an appreciation for the great outdoors.
“There’s nothing like interacting with people, getting people out in the wilderness and feeling what it’s like to have wind in your face or to experience trails that go up and down,” said Marc Lapalme, the treasurer of the club.
Lapalme explained that the Timmins ATV club was founded in 2020 by a core group of volunteers who wanted to prepare and promote trails and ensure families can enjoy them on all-terrain vehicles safely. Many of those volunteers had already done similar work with the local snowmobile club. The cultures of the two activities are similar, as many ATV users trade in their vehicles for snowmobiles, as soon as winter comes, Lapalme said.
Despite being just two years old, the ATV club already has about 50 kilometres worth of trails in its care, covering areas both inside and outside the city limits and on Crown land. The trails are generally west of the urban area. Some venture well west, to Foleyet, while other trails are to the south, including a popular one that travels along the majestic Grassy River.
The club is part of the Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicle Clubs. To become a Timmins ATV Club member, a person needs to register for a permit through ofatv.org (an individual permit is $150 for the year, while family permits can be slightly less per person) and as they purchase it, they can select Timmins as their local club. That permit allows a rider to use all trails within the OFATV system, not just their local trails.
Lapalme emphasized that the club “has the right people, motivated to do the right thing.” The executive knows their work to place and maintain proper signage up along routes is important, as it will help get riders to their destinations without worry, as sometimes the routes travel through lands where there’s no cell phone connection. They also hope to, in the long-term, be involved in more training and safety programs, such as promoting the use of helmets.
“Our goal is to make it so that it’s a fun, family-friendly sport,” said Lapalme. “We want moms and dads to take out little John and Jenny; we want people to come out and enjoy the beautiful trees and trails.”
The club knows that if young people continue to experience the joys of ATVing, a new generation will grow up with an appreciation for outdoor activities, continuing Timmins’ long-standing culture as northern community of fun-loving people.
But the economic benefits of promoting the activity are vast, too. A report by the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distribution Council said that in 2015 Ontario residents spent $947 million on activities related to ATVing.
The club plans on working with the municipality to cross-promote trails with local gas stations, restaurants and hotels, so that Timmins gets its fair share of this revenue.
Lepalme believes there’s huge potential there because in a world where so many people find entertainment by staring at screens, the opportunity to see new sights outdoors and experience nature with friends and families is becoming even more special.
“The feeling you get from velocity and the physics of being on an ATV – you feel the shift, you feel the swing ups and downs – you don’t get that by looking at a phone.”
For more details, visit the Timmins ATV club’s Facebook page.