Updated: 21 Jul 2018 12:00
Legislation to introduce quad tours was approved by the House of Assembly, despite opposition from environmental groups.
Walter Roban, the transport minister, said tours will be limited to seven vehicles and will only be allowed on paved or service roads.
Mr Roban told the House that the vehicles would only be driven as part of a guided tour organized by a licensed operator and that the license would be granted for one year on a trial basis.
Cole Simons, the shadow minister of education, expressed concern that allowing vehicles in Hog Bay Park would set a precedent.
He said: “If they start in one park, what is it that prevents other businessmen from starting a business in other parks in Bermuda? I am looking at the road to our future.
“For me, the parks should be preserved as one of the gems of this country.”
Lt. Col. David Burch, Minister of Public Works, said he had been criticized for saying the opinions of those living east of White Hill should not have a say.
He added that while the government has received hundreds of objections, the majority have focused on the noise.
Colonel Burch said: “I don’t know how you can hear the noise of anything going along the tracks if you live in St David’s, where one of the opponents was.”
He said others had opposed “things that were actually not going to happen.”
Colonel Burch said he had met with Family Planning to run the travel business and was impressed by their professionalism.
He added that the family decided to start the business because their son could not find work on the island despite his degree in actuarial science.
Colonel Burch said he believed the government had taken a “measured and reasonable approach”, and the objections stemmed from action taken by a Progressive Labor Party government.
Sylvan Richards of the One Bermuda Alliance said he was criticized for quad biking tours while serving as a minister.
He told the House that he had been approached by the family and supported their proposal on the grounds that they were getting all the proper permits and permissions.
Mr Richards said he later saw a social media debate that completely misrepresented the proposal.
He said: “I got slammed for weeks and weeks. I have been called all kinds of names by our own supporters.
Mr Richards said he still believed the proposal would work for Bermuda.
He said: “I support ATVs. I support the people behind. I know they will do a very good job because they are professionals.
Michael Scott, a backbench MP for the PLP, said the proposal had been criticized by some because the entrepreneur behind it was black.
However, Michael Dunkley, the shadow Minister of National Security, said it was not a race issue.
He said: “This is a change that a lot of people are uncomfortable with and that’s why they object.”
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said he was initially concerned about the proposal after seeing the outcry on social media, but said the right precautions were in place to protect the environment and the public.
Mr Caines said a “false narrative” had developed that the government did not care about the environment.
He added, “At the end of the year, if the requirements are not met, we have the option to come back, discuss it further, or drop the idea all together. “
Jamahl Simmons, Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, said those who have complained about noise have not raised concerns about the noise caused by those riding motocross on the same trails.
He added that he had worked with community workers to resolve this issue, but the absence of a similar outcry made him question people’s intentions.
Mr Simmons said he was satisfied that the legislation addresses public concerns and that the end result will be a successful business that attracts tourists and locals.
He said, “It’s something different. It is something that people appreciate. It’s a beautiful part of Bermuda and we have the opportunity to share it with the world.
Leah Scott, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, said the government was in a “fuck if you do it, never mind if you don’t”.
She added: “If there is something that is not working, we can change it. If we find that something needs to be improved, we can do it.
“I also think no one is going to pass a bill with the intention of destroying Bermuda.”
New experience: test year for touring (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)