Popular cycling trail added to counties budget review
The Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail has become a popular venue for both foot and bicycle traffic most of the year and also for many snowmobilers taking advantage of its straightaway sections. What kind of a future the trail will continue to have as part of the regional outdoor recreational scene is part of the current discussion process for next year’s counties budget.
Right now there is concern among some members of the regional cycling community and also on the Ontario Trails Council (OTC) that the end may be in sight for the Prescott-Russell Trail as an official recreational function of the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR). But Warden Guy Desjardins and Stéphane Parisien, UCPR chief administrator, both report that it’s too early to say what is going to happen with the trail, because the annual budget process has just gotten underway.
“It will be discussed ,” Desjardins said during a phone interview Sept. 23. “Time will tell.”
“We’re having discussions right now with the local municipalities,” said Parisien, adding that some of the paved portions of the trail that run right through particular villages within Prescott-Russell could become municipal recreation functions.
The whole issue surrounding the present and future of the PR Trail began during last month’s UCPR economic development and tourism committee session. Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux asked how much money did the counties spend on maintenance and improvements work for the trail.
Counties staff did a quick review and reported back to the advisory committee that 2016 budget allocation for the trail was about $300,000. Warden Desjardins noted that came as a surprise to himself and others.
“Nobody’s ever really asked that before,” he said. “We said right away ‘We want details.’”
Counties staff is assessing the expenses involved for the UCPR in looking after the trail as part of the 2017 budget review. Those figures will come out as part of the preliminary budget report for the mayors on council to review and comment on before making their own suggestions and recommendations.
Desjardins is mayor for the City of Clarence-Rockland.
Several sections of the trail run through the western part of the municipality, through the villages of Bourget and Cheney-Hammond. Other UCPR municipalities, which serve as key “pavilion points” for the trail, include Vankleek Hill in Champlain Township and the Village of Plantagenet in Alfred-Plantagenet Township.
The counties have had the PR Trail as a recreational function for many years since VIA Rail was willing to allow for a lease arrangement turning over use of one of its old railway right-of-ways as a recreational trail route.
The lease arrangement comes up for renewal soon and the counties and VIA are still working out the final revisions for the new extension, dealing with complaints the rail company has about encroachments on its right-of-way by some neighbouring landowners and other concerns.
Over the years some parts of the trail have gotten paved while other sections have just a gravel cover.
Warden Desjardins noted he has gotten email complaints from both users who don’t like the unpaved parts of the trail and others who would rather see no pavement at all, just a rough cross-country bike trail.
The Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail has both paved and unpaved sections, and there are complaints about both situations from some of the cyclists who use the trail. Though whether those complaints are from locals or out-of-town visitors is something the counties council might like to know as it ponders the future for the recreational trail during its 2017 budget review.