PPJ trail users hold info meeting, gain new support

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Added: Wed, 12/06/2017 - 10:32pm
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Lynne Lavery

CAMPBELL’S BAY – Wednesday, November 22, the Green-PPJ-Verte citizens’
committee hosted a public meeting at the SADC offices to discuss the CycloParc PPJ, and to recruit new members. 
Spokesperson Remo Pasteris of Bristol described the trail committee as a response to an  attempt in 2016 to change the PPJ trail’s purpose; some ATV riders wanted to add it to their 450 kms of trails already open to motorized vehicles. At present it is limited to cyclists and hikers in the summer, as part of the Quebec-wide Route Verte, linking Pontiac to the rest of the province and to the TransCanada Trail, reaching the West Coast.  Motorizing the trail would end funding by the Route Verte program.
The PPJ committee held a successful rally supporting the Route Verte connection in 2016, and has submitted several reports to the MRC mayors calculating the economic and health benefits of the trail, plus three detailed Maintenance Reports for specific sections.   Committee members reported meeting Pontiac’s new Warden Jane Toller before the election, providing her copies of their reports.
 PPJ budget
The first MRC meeting with the new warden and council of mayors saw a report on the use of this year’s PPJ budget (see page 7).  Of the trail’s total $250,000 budget-- with 50% from Quebec’s Route Verte program -- $179,000 has been dedicated to repairing culverts, as per an engineers’ report.  Of the $71,000 directed to summer use, salaries of MRC employees plus equipment expenses left minimal room for other expenditures.  The Trail’s culvert repairs aids both summer and winter (snowmobile clubs) users.
Alain Goulet, President of the Pontiac Snowmobile Drivers’ Association, told the public meeting, “Our club doesn’t want to see ATVs on the trail. It is not a desirable
situation to share a trail with ATVs and it isn't recommended by the Federation of Quebec Snowmobile Clubs. The PPJ is the backbone of the Pontiac snowmobile trail network and needs to be kept in excellent condition. ATVs leave ruts in the trail-bed which make it impossible for our grooming equipment to operate correctly. And they will ride the trail, year-round,” damaging the trail, groomed by the Club at their own expense.
The President also stated that any cut in funding from the Route Verte would harm local skidoo clubs (“we need the culverts”); he suggested the snow clubs could help maintain the trail during the summer to save money, giving an example of the snowmobile club in the Vallée du Gatineau which has the contract for maintenance of their trail.
Trail use increases
Attendees dismissed rumours of few summer users as “coffee-shop talk”, and reported counting many cyclists and walkers.  They said cyclists don’t make the noise of motorized vehicles and may be unnoticed, but “they do stay in local campgrounds and other accommodations and eat in local restaurants”. In response to this increased use, Esprit Rafting’s Jim Coffey reported a new service planned for next summer to shuttle cycling visitors’ equipment from Esprit’s Davidson operation to overnight stops along the trail, creating a cycling circuit using the Quyon Ferry to return via the Ontario side.
Other topics included the loss of the trail bed in the Municipality of Pontiac and whether it could be expropriated to connect to Gatineau; better signage on the trail showing services in nearby towns; the trail’s rough surface in spots; the danger to the trail and to cyclists from illegal trail bike use; the lack of police presence on the trail; and a general concern that the new Council of Mayors will re-open the debate on the PPJ’s original mandate. 
Mr Pasteris added that, “Starting the debate again would go against the MRC statement of August, 2016, that reads, “The MRC Pontiac has no intention of depriving cyclists and walkers of the Cylcopark PPJ or endangering their safety by allowing motorized traffic on the bike path.” Several present called on the mayors to honour the MRC’s commitment.
The meeting concluded with a consensus to continue cooperating with the MRC and to promote trail use.  Several added that an alliance with snowmobile clubs to protect the trail bed will benefit tourism businesses as well as local residents who use the trail for recreational and health purposes.