Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary By Paul Wettlaufer, OFA Director
There’s a lot of talk in the countryside about Bill 100, the proposed Supporting Ontario Trails Act. The act was introduced in the Ontario legislature in May, 2015 and has generated much confusion over whether or not a landowner has a choice to grant an easement. Trail-related easements are entirely voluntary under Bill 100.
Ontario farmers have a long history of providing, upon request, access to their land for public use. The proposed act includes rules for easements for landowners wishing to share their land on a seasonal or year-long basis. That being said, Bill 100 does not force farmers and rural property owners to enter into any trail-related easement agreements.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) carefully reviewed Bill 100 and provided comments in June 2015. In our submission, OFA noted section 12 of the legislation is clear that an owner’s decision to enter into a trail easement is their own choice and is completely voluntary. The legislation clearly states a landowner may grant an easement to allow use of their property and have the right to state the length or term of the agreement. That means Ontario farmers and rural property owners will retain a choice and should not feel obligated to enter into any easement agreement for recreational trail use.
OFA does have concerns with the Supporting Ontario Trails Act, including insufficient fines for trespassing and vague best practices for trail operators. To read OFA’s full submission and comments on Bill 100, visit ofa.on.ca
Ontario’s farmers have a unique perspective on trails. Former railways crossed through farms, hiking trails run through or adjacent to farmland and many farmers voluntarily permit seasonal use of their land for snowmobile trails. There’s a lot to consider when farmers permit recreational trails on their property. Land easements under Bill 100 and the proposed Supporting Ontario Trails Act are voluntary and should be carefully considered before being granted. If in doubt, consult legal counsel if you any questions about allowing access to your property for recreational purposes.
Ontarians are fortunate to have such a rich and beautiful countryside. It is worth working together to share our appreciation of our natural landscape.