Catching up with Hartley Pokrant, President and founder of the Belair ATV Club

“These trails are all interconnected—a legacy of forest harvesting operations over the last 100 years.” — Hartley Pokrant

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Hartley Pokrant stands next to his side-by-side ATV on a travel trailer.

“It is up to all riders to ride responsibly, stay on trails, and not enter sensitive areas like marsh and wetlands.” — Hartley Pokrant — Photo courtesy Hartley Pokrant

If anyone has a sense of what’s happening in Belair, it’s Hartley Pokrant (sorry, Will Smith). Not only is Pokrant the President of Manitoba’s Belair ATV Club, he founded the organization. Back in 2016, Pokrant negotiated with the Province for trail authorization with two municipalities for approval of the club’s popular Whistle Pig Rail Trail on the government’s decommissioned rail corridor. Since that time, Pokrant has remained hands-on, running a lean administration without a formal Board of Directors. Instead, Pokrant and his partner Lynn manage all the administration and call upon volunteers if and when required.

We caught up with Pokrant to see how the Belair ATV Club continues to captivate Manitoban ATVers on its historic trails.

An ATV sits in the middle of a crater with a manmade gravel road descending into it.

“I enjoy the scenery and riding in several of the large former gravel extraction areas, one of which we call the moon crater because of its depth and size.” — Hartley Pokrant — Photo courtesy Hartley Pokrant

How has the last year gone for your club?

Having come off two riding seasons during COVID-19 and including a very dry season of trail closures that curtailed our club rides, we had a good season last year where we were able to access all the forest trails and resume club rides. Our memberships declined during that time but are now rebounding.

What are the top two places to go for a ride in your area? Why?

Our east side of Lake Winnipeg includes the vast Belair Provincial Forest where our extensive managed and signed trail network is a subset of over 500 kilometres of forest trails. These trails are all interconnected—a legacy of forest harvesting operations over the last 100 years. The terrain is varied and comprised of sandy trails and covered primarily by coniferous forest. Throughout the region, there are many large gravel extraction areas and also many kilometers of beautiful sandy beaches accessible through the trail network. There are many accessible destinations for fuel, food, lodging, camping and beach access.

Our connected 75-kilometre Whistle Pig Rail Trail also offers a large urban centre at each end and also a casino and hotel complex at the midpoint. With so many varied riding opportunities, it is difficult to single out two top riding places, but I do enjoy the scenery and riding in several of the large former gravel extraction areas, one of which we call the moon crater because of its depth and size.

What initiatives has your organization taken lately?

During the last riding season, we completed the installation of two large map kiosks at either end of our Whistle Pig Rail Trail and we also conducted three club rides.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

ORV riders are often maligned by the general public and the environment movement. Like any motorized sport, there are always a small percentage that choose to be a nuisance in developed areas by making noise and riding too fast or trespassing which results in responsible riders being painted with the same brush. Those who chose to ride like that fail to realize that they are also hurting themselves. It is up to all riders to ride responsibly, stay on trails, and not enter sensitive areas like marsh and wetlands.


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