Vigilante justice about to come down on P.E.I. snowmobilers

Dave Stewart
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Randy Pitre, who managers approximately 400 acres of blueberry crops in Alberry Plains, says these photos he took show snowmobilers are trespassing on that farmland and damaging the crops. The photos on the left and right show tracks over the blueberry plants while the centre photo shows snowmobilers are ignoring the "no trespassing" sign on the post.

Crop manager says farmers' patience stretched to limit by snowmobilers driving over fields, damaging plants

Islanders are being pushed to the edge of vigilante justice, says the leader of the Green Party of P.E.I.

Peter Bevan-Baker made that comment on Friday after listening to a presentation by Randy Pitre, who manages approximately 400 acres of blueberry crops in Alberry Plains.

Pitre spoke to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries, complaining that growers are reaching the breaking point when it comes to off-road vehicles, primarily snowmobiles, trespassing on their fields and damaging crops.

Pitre said he estimates the blueberry operations he manages have sustained roughly $25,000 in damage caused by snowmobiles. Farmers are getting frustrated to the point of taking matters into their own hands.

"They are coming onto private property and doing extensive damage,'' Pitre told the media following his presentation, adding that when it comes to blueberry crops, plants are encouraged to grow to a certain height before they can be harvested.

"When you have an 800-pound machine coming in and trampling that down, it's doing extensive damage. They are trespassing on property. They don't have permission to be there.''

Pitre is asking the committee to recommend that the province amend legislation that allows snowmobilers to travel in ditches by the side of the road. The theory is to ban them from ditches and they won't be able to go from field to field.

"It just doesn't make sense. They're not allowed to travel on public roadways, only to cross them, but I have witnessed where they are travelling on actual roadways in order to get from field to field.''

Pitre's presentation included photographs that show exactly what he describes.

"Farmers and producers are frustrated.''

MORE: MLAs make suggestions to address issue of snowmobilers

Bevan-Baker said he's heard the same concern from growers in his riding.

"There is widespread concern,'' Bevan-Baker said. "I think it's a huge problem on P.E.I.''

The RCMP reminds drivers they are only permitted on the trail and are required to have a pass. Snowmobilers are also required to stay off private property unless they have the owner's consent.

However, Pitre said catching offenders is difficult for police. The machines can move at fast speeds, police cannot pursue in their cruisers and drivers are hard to identify with equipment and a helmet on.

Pitre said his operations do have "no trespassing" signs posted, but they are ignored and have, in some cases, been knocked down.

He said growers are desperate, pointing to an incident in Winsloe North earlier this month where a snowmobiler with one passenger stopped at a barricade and were confronted by a man carrying an assault rifle. During an RCMP investigation, police determined a second incident occurred involving the same man and a friend where one of the men allegedly fired a gun in the air when snowmobiles approached the barricade.

"He put up a barricade trying to protect his own property. What is a person to do? It's sad when it has to come to that. It shouldn't come to that.''

The Guardian reached out to the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association, but the call was not immediately returned. Pitre said the association informed him that it encourages snowmobilers to register with them and use the trails.

Organizations: Green Party of P.E.I., Standing Committee on Agriculture, RCMP P.E.I. Snowmobile Association

Geographic location: Alberry Plains

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Recent comments

  • Regular Joe
    Regular Joe
    March 08, 2016 - 07:32

    What about the farmers that ignore the law while driving their harvesters for miles down the highways sometimes blocking the whole road . I don't see Mr Pitre mentioning that fact or saying they should be charged . So what are we supposed to have two sets of laws now on the Island one for regular citizens and another set for farmers .Enforce all the highway laws and trespassing laws evenly for everyone not just farmers .

  • medieval Joe
    March 07, 2016 - 12:07

    rebar calltrops might fix the problem and break a few trespassing machines.

  • ... And Four Wheelers
    March 07, 2016 - 07:55

    It doesn't stop when there is no snow!

  • My 2 cents worth
    March 07, 2016 - 07:13

    After reading the comments, I have a few of my own. If people are going to disrespect "No Trespassing" signs, they will ignore no traveling in the ditch rules. When laws are created to punish the few "bad apples" you punish the responsible ones as well. With a limited winter economy in PEI snowmobile enthusiasts certainly pay their fair share and mostly at small rural businesses scattered across the province. Lack of snow is probably the biggest issue here. Last year a sled traveling any where would not have left a mark. I suggest working with the PEISA to come up with collaborative solutions rather than new laws that will never be able to be enforced.

  • no thanks
    March 07, 2016 - 05:17

    a business opportunity -- take these guys for rides in the back of your open half ton at high speeds over bumpy roads with no signs or concern for safety - let then dress up in their finest snowmobile attire first -play recorded high pitch engine moans to them -- you will need a few half tons at least so that you can race each other -

  • Joe Doe
    March 06, 2016 - 23:36


  • Louann
    March 06, 2016 - 19:41

    Yes, A few punks ruining it on the vast majority of you who are respectful skidoo drivers /owners. You all know who some off these punks are, of course you do, they are the ones who deserve to hear your words of displeasure! Not the victims ! The victims are not the cause of this issue! But it's easier to blame the victims ,isn't it? Put the blame where it belongs,Put the accountability and responsibility on these people you know ,there shoulders, they are the reason things are where they are today, they are the reason for this push and by you not making them accountable for their destructive actions, than you are supporting this behaviour and you are responsible for the consequences ,which is a ban. Seen it, the taunting , catch me if you can attitude, as they return to taunt time after time. Well, they do get caught, to get served is not fun, is it?

  • Bill Madden
    March 06, 2016 - 18:03

    Actually Barry W, you are 100 per cent wrong. The law states: It is trespassing to enter a lawn, garden, orchard, commercial berry growing area, golf course, cropland, tree plantation area, or Christmas tree management area – these all have special protection under the Act. The person making the complaints in this story is a commercial berry grower so his land is off limits. It is also against the law for anyone to remove a 'no trespassing" sign which snowmobilers have done in the past. If you check one of the photos he is holding in the story you will see snowmobile tracks going right past a visible "no trespassing" sign.

    • Teri
      April 19, 2016 - 11:31

      They not only ignore the signs, if there is a fence they don't think twice about cutting it down. I almost lost a very expensive horse because snowmobilers decided it would be more fun to go through our pasture than stay on the abundant trails. They cut down three strands of wire, replaced the top strand after driving through and left the other two strands coiled on the ground, hidden in the snow. Thankfully my horse didn't panic when she found herself trapped. When she didn't come in for grain with the rest of the herd, just standing next to the fence looking at us, did we know something was wrong. She had both hind legs tangled with one cut so badly the wire was all the way down to the bone. We freed her but it was many months before she was healthy again. Meet a snowmobiler with a gun as they come on my (posted and fenced-in) property? You bet I would.

  • Islander
    March 06, 2016 - 17:39

    If weapons are reported beig used by a certain individual this is totally the responsibility of the RCMP. Fix this problem before someone gets injured or killed. He cannot be to hard to track down. All snowmobilers are this disrespectful about driving on private property, this is just a few bad apples, they are every where. It all boils down to what they were taught growing up.

  • This Person
    March 06, 2016 - 16:24

    Where people do go on a snowmobile on PEI? It's so small here there doesn't seem like anywhere to go. I know the trails are rented by the association but other than that it seems the only other places are private land and on PEI anywhere outside large towns that means farms. I can't imagine spending $10,000 to $20,000 on a new Skidoo where do people get such money to waste? Only to be able to drive on someone's land and only for a few short months of the year in a small place like PEI.

      March 07, 2016 - 10:33

      You pretty well summed up why you shouldn't buy a snowmobile, or for that matter, a four wheeler.

  • Barry W.
    March 06, 2016 - 14:26

    In fact the Trespass law in PEI says you can go onto private property unless it is posted with no trespassing sign. Look it up. So many things wrong with this article. PEI does not need scare mongering or fear mongering to sell news papers. We need reporters who research and fact check before they submit.

    • i just read the law
      March 06, 2016 - 21:21

      It's called the Trespass to Property Act and I just read it. It says in section 2 that if you go onto a property that you don't own and without permission, you're guilty of trespassing and subject to a fine from $200.00 to $2,000.00 That seems pretty clear to me. I'm not sure what legislation you were reading but it's not the one in PEI.

  • Winsloe North Resident
    March 06, 2016 - 12:32

    The 'incident' in North Winsloe was that of a pure irresponsible gun owner. He has no crops to protect and his irresponsible gun use is not only limited to snowmobilers but happens year round as he fires his guns in his back yard with children living in 5 of the 7 properties surrounding his. This incident is not one that regularly causes any issue as there is very very little traffic that would flow through the property and most of the ones traveling through it are family and few friends traveling to a surrounding property, myself included. I understand and respect the issues of the growers and farmers. I personally as a snowmobiler respect the no trespassing signs but unfortunately not everyone has the same respect. However I do not respect those who do not know the details and make assumptions based on one incident. Do your homework. This is not the first incident this irresponsible gun owner has encountered.

    • concerned
      March 07, 2016 - 02:31

      The person mentioned in North Winsloe is not a property owner, he rents a house and that does not include the land he was "defending". He has on multiple occasions discharged hundreds of rounds of ammunition off his back step. Several of the neighbors have small children that are playing outside

  • Redseem
    March 06, 2016 - 11:35

    I seemes like every snowmobiler is getting painted with the same brush because of a few bad apples. I understand the frustration of the grower but seems like their might be a slight exaggeration in a few aspect in this story. Such as the weight of a sled.....

      March 07, 2016 - 10:40

      Stop the BS. It doesn't matter that the sled weighs 800 lbs. or 700 lbs., the damage is the same. You have to be pretty ignorant to cross private property without permission, especially when there are signs and you know they are blueberry fields. It is just plain ignorance and these sleighers epitomize this.

  • Ralphie
    March 06, 2016 - 09:57

    Do the RCMP do anything anymore?????

    • johnnie
      March 06, 2016 - 17:17

      Yes they do Ralphie, but there really is no point when you have judges who give slaps on the wrist time and time again.