Request to impose tax on motorized recreational sports not supported by Revelstoke City Council

Revelstoke city councillors weren't supportive of a request from the North Columbia Environmental Society to impose an environmental tax on motorized recreational sports in the community. Concerns arose over the controversy that could erupt among community members if such a tax was to be imposed. The question of the city's legal ability to impose such a tax was also raised.

Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo: Jeremy Hanke, owner and lead instructor at Soul Rides, is taking his snowmobile-based avalanche education program to Norway, Sweden and Japan. Photo by Kelsey Elliott

A request from the North Columbia Environmental Society to impose environmental fees, and stop or limit marketing of motorized recreational activities in Revelstoke got no love from city council.

At their, Revelstoke city councillors stated concerns over creating a controversy that could pit community members against each other. There were also concerns on whether the city is within its legal limits to impose the sort of taxation being requested by the North Columbia Environmental Society (NCES).

“I think the recreational community has had incredible strides in looking at their equipment, and looking at not only if it’s safe, but it it’s safe for the environment,” Councillor Gary Sulz said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “I feel like there’s no point in us stoking the fire. I understand where they environmental society is coming from, but I feel there have been strides forward with the equipment that is being used.”

Councillor Connie Brothers said she felt she would prefer to defer to the snowmobiling and other motorized recreational groups.

“We’re always talking about balance. Tourism is a really important part of our community, and the environment is too. I think we should monitor this going forward to see if there is a need sometime in the future.”

The public gallery at the Revelstoke City Council meeting was full on Tuesday afternoon with many members of the motorized sports community, including snowmobilers, as well as representatives from the North Columbia Environmental Society. Photo: Melissa Jameson

Councillor Aaron Orlando stated there may be opposition to an additional tax when there is already a carbon tax in B.C. that motorized recreational sports enthusiasts pay when they purchase gas.

“Pretty soon it turns into a fairness issue,” said Orlando, saying that he drove his car to Mount Macpherson yesterday in order to ride his mountain bike, asking if he should pay a special levy for that. “Our ability as a local government to introduce levies and fees is [also] limited. I’m reluctant to refer something to staff and [take up] staff time when it doesn’t look like it will get support when it comes back to [council].”

Mayor Mark McKee also stated concerns over the legality of the city being able to charge a carbon tax. He also stated that the city pays a service fee for marketing, but that groups such as the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club do their own marketing.

“They all do their marketing in a way they feel is best for their operations and the community. We reap those benefits. There are a lot of people associated with those company associations,” said McKee. “This is what we are famous for and I’m concerned by moving down this path it’s going to create a lot of anxiety in the community. There are ways to talk about it, but without impacting a lot of livelihoods at the same time as doing what’s right for the environment.”

No motions were put forward by council in regards to the letter submitted by the NCES.