PPJ future still uncertain No report from ATV committee; asks funds for overwidth study

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Allyson Beauregard and Lynne Lavery


Allyson Beauregard and Lynne Lavery

PONTIAC – On October 18, the MRC’s Council of mayors had the PPJ Trail again on the agenda – a request to fund a study to look at the PPJ’s overwidth for ATV use.  Using the “overwidth”, which does not exist on most of the trail, had been proposed earlier by Thorne’s mayor, Terry Murdock, chair of the ATV-trail committee. That committee’s mandate, under a fall deadline, was to study back-road access linking certain communities, and to identify roads or trails which could form a network.
The ATV committee will not meet its deadline, said Warden Raymond Durocher, who told his council, “Their report won’t be tabled… it’s not ready. There are still a lot of questions that need to be addressed.”
Murdock added: “That’s why we are asking for a study. We have to get ready for the bridge in Portage because everyone crossing it is a [potential] tourist.” The bridge is the recently-refurbished CN railroad bridge between Ontario and west of Portage-du-Fort. The work was done by Ontario ATV and snowmobile clubs in hopes of attracting Quebec users to their own trail network; it is only refurbished part-way, after which it becomes Quebec jurisdiction. The Pontiac Snowmobile Drivers Association (PSDA) recently obtained the lease for the CN corridor between the bridge and Norway Bay to link their established trails.
According to Green PPJ Verte spokesperson, Remo Pasteris, “We are concerned and surprised that using the PPJ’s “overwidth” continues to be discussed by the MRC mayors. After trying to work with Mr Murdock and his committee this summer, we created our own PPJ Verte report and submitted it to the MRC, meeting the September 21 deadline.
“Among other factors, our study stated that the use of the overwidth would increase illegal use of the PPJ by ATVs and present a safety hazard to other users. Why could our volunteers come up with a detailed report, under a short deadline, and the ATV committee not be unable to complete its own?” he asked.  
Kim Villeneuve, Otter Lake mayor, was firm: “We have to know the mandate of the study and the costs before we even begin.” The cost is estimated between $15,000 and $20,000. “We have a trail (PPJ), but we need a concept.
We need to know where there is overwidth, and if it is feasible for quad use, where the PPJ (overwidth) can be connected to municipal roads, and what has to be done to do so,” said Durocher, adding that the decision requires looking at the MRC’s coming budget, as well as getting a commitment by the ATV and snowmobile associations that they are interested in any additional trail networks. 
“This new study again seems to exclude other users,” said Pasteris. “However, if they explore options for an ATV network – that do not include the PPJ’s overwidth – that’s fine with us; but, if they want the single focus to be the PPJ it will be money wasted and the MRC would lose all funding from Quebec’s Route Verte. Simply put: ATVs and bicycles and hikers do not mix,” he concluded
A decision is likely at the MRC’s next plenary meeting, November 8.