MRC PONTIAC – Following the April 19 Council of Mayors (CoM) meeting where a five mayor committee was formed to look into the possibility of opening back roads and the shoulder of the PPJ trail to ATVs, a meeting was held May 9 where the mayors met with other stakeholders to discuss the issue further. In addition to distributing surveys regarding the issue, the committee decided to change their focus from using the shoulder of the PPJ to the trail itself.
“It would be much safer than having them getting off and on the trail in certain areas… We want to know what the public thinks since these are the people we were elected to represent,” said Terry Murdock, the Committee Chair who is also the MRC Pontiac Pro-Warden. In areas where a shoulder does not exist on the PPJ, ATVs would need to use back roads and then get back on the shoulder when possible.
The surveys, which ask residents whether they are in favour of ATVs using back roads and the PPJ, were distributed to various businesses throughout the Pontiac as well as municipal offices and the MRC building in Campbell’s Bay. “I picked up one and the list was full of names. I haven’t seen too many not in favour of it,” said Bill Stewart, the mayor who started the ball rolling on the issue in the first place.
The committee has also asked the Ministry of Transport to identify which roads would be good candidates for the initiative.
Although Stewart envisions ATVs sharing the PPJ with pedestrians and cyclists, Murdock believes it should be “one or the other” for safety. “The economic system here is terrible and the trail is greatly underutilized. Most [cyclists] are on the highway. If 50-100 bikes use the trail per year, I would be very surprised. I’ve spoke to businesses and restaurants along the trail, and they receive no support from them,” explained Murdock, noting cameras were installed along the trail to get an idea of how often it is currently used.
The results of the survey will be compiled into a report that will be
presented at August or September’s CoM meeting along with a recommendation from the committee. Another committee meeting is being held in July.
According to both Murdock and Stewart, other areas in Ontario are looking into opening their bike trails to ATVs (Barrie, ON) or have already passed legislation allowing them to use the shoulders of roads. “The trend is on and we are way behind here in Quebec, but we are going to try to catch up,” Stewart told the Journal. “It’s time we got into the 21st century. We have Ontario at our doorsteps waiting for us to get this together,” added Murdock, stressing the Pontiac’s natural beauty as an added attraction.
According to Murdock, the police are “100% behind” the initiative as is the Pontiac Quad Club. “The police say it would make their jobs easier because the ATVs would be out in the open rather than in the bush. Insurance and registration would be mandatory as would a trail pass,” he concluded.
MRC Pontiac Warden Raymond Durocher recognizes the economic benefits of expanding the areas where ATVs can travel, but is less in favour of using the PPJ. “Using the shoulder would have advantages, I agree, but to [stop allowing] bicycles on the PPJ is another game. You can’t abolish one to create another,” he stressed, noting a partnership between the MRC and the provincial government exists for the Cycloparc PPJ for its funding.