Po­pu­lar cy­cling trail ad­ded to coun­ties bud­get re­view

Le Reflet (The News) - - ACTUALITES - GREGG CHAMBERLAIN gregg.chamberlain@eap.on.ca

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.

—pho­tos Gregg Chamberlain

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.

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