SHAWVILLE – The website of the Cycloparc PPJ which crosses several municipalities in the Pontiac advertises, “you will travel through important natural habitats known for their exceptional and diverse wildlife and flora. Don’t be surprised to come upon some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Outaouais.” However, the photo above pictures a stretch of the PPJ, located at the perimeter of Pontiac High School, where hundreds of plastic water bottles, soda cans, packaging wrappers, and cigarette cartons litter the surroundings, and profanities are spray painted on the trail’s pavement. “There’s even a large baby stroller pushed way down the ravine!,” reported an anonymous source.
“We are aware of this recurring situation,” said Marc Fortin, Director of Operations – CDE Pontiac. “Our PPJ maintenance team is seasonal, operating from mid-April to mid-October, this explains why there is an accumulation. It’s pretty much always that bad when the maintenance season’s off and school’s on,” he continued.
Fortin explained that a “cleanup blitz” is generally organized in the spring, with students from the school, and members of the PPJ maintenance team participating in the task. When contacted regarding the littering, Principal Eldon Keon stated that the issue is “an important one at the school and for society in general.”
As for who is responsible for paying the bill for PHS cleanup, Fortin stated, “There is no actual bill. It is part of our maintenance budget and the contribution of the school is the participation of the students for the blitz.”
The waste occupies both sides of the PPJ trail and cascades down the bank on the side opposite to the school. “The corridor of the PPJ is owned by the MRC and varies anywhere from 15 to 40 feet from the middle of the trail on each side of the PPJ, depending mostly on the topography of the terrain,” explained Fortin. However, as Fortin stated, when the waste is off MRC-owned property, it becomes the responsibility of the landowner. The situation then boils down to who owns the property, who dumped the trash on it, and who is responsible for cleaning it.
“Municipalities often have by-laws which can force a land owner to maintain their property,” claimed Fortin. Section 10 of Shawville’s nuisance bylaw, adopted in 2009, states that it is, “prohibited to let, deposit or throw any objects or residual material on a public or private field, except with the permission of the owner or the person responsible for the field.” “But these by-laws have to be enforced,” Fortin emphasized.
“People who become accustom to a trashy landscape and environment, eventually don’t even see it and become complacent about it,” said Fortin; “it’s only when people become conscious that change can happen. Maybe people have to be shaken a bit.”
Fortin told the Journal that this situation will be addressed with the school, with the possibility of having ‘No Littering’ signs placed in the area, and that the bylaws concerning the deposit of the trash will be looked into.