PPJ vandalism increases and threatens users, says MRC

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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – A high number of acts of vandalism on the PPJ trail recently prompted the MRC Pontiac’s Council of Mayors to appeal to the Sûreté du Québec to further enforce trail regulations and increase patrolling before a serious accident occurs.

Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – A high number of acts of vandalism on the PPJ trail recently prompted the MRC Pontiac’s Council of Mayors to appeal to the Sûreté du Québec to further enforce trail regulations and increase patrolling before a serious accident occurs.
“Motorized vehicles illegally using the PPJ Cyclopark is not a new problem, but the unprecedented number of acts of vandalism this year has MRC Council fearing for the safety of users,” said the MRC in a press release.
The damages have included broken gates, vehicles spinning tires to throw gravel onto the trail’s surface from the shoulders, and deep ruts between gate openings where cyclists must pass. The MRC claims the actions have no other objective but to inconvenience cyclists and eat away at the trail’s maintenance budget, which is $250,000 this year.
The incidents were reported by both trail users and maintenance crews. The MRC was unable to confirm if the reports of vandalism are higher this year due to increased use of the trail by cyclists as well as those involved in initiatives such as the Vélo Sympatique certification process.
Remo Pasteris, Green PPJ Verte spokesperson, said his group has recommended the installation of signs along the trail, indicating how and who to contact at the MRC if users spot a problem. “A lot of cyclists have a cell phone. They could take a
picture and either text or email it to the MRC letting them know where and when a
problem was spotted,” he explained, noting it would be a very important tool for cyclists from outside the area who may be unaware of who is responsible for the trail.
The Green PPJ Verte group submitted an inspection report identifying problem areas on the PPJ earlier this year and expect to submit another by the end of August. “We’ve been working closely with the MRC to identify problems,” added Pasteris, who stressed that vandalism is never a victim-less crime because the costs eventually boil down to taxpayers. 
However, the material losses are considered small in relation to the threat of more serious consequences. “Open gates are an invitation for motorized vehicles to venture onto the path, which endangers the lives of users. We’re lucky we’ve not had a serious injury to date, but a few near misses have been reported,” said Gabriel Lance, MRC Pontiac Assistant Director.
In response, Warden Raymond Durocher was mandated to work with the SQ’s Campbell’s Bay detachment to come up with measures to ensure
compliance with trail regulations. “Obviously the threat of fines alone is not enough to keep motorized vehicles off the bike path,” admitted Durocher, who
recognizes the challenge of policing the entire 92 kilometres of trail. “We can’t be everywhere all the time, but we can be in some places some of the time,” he added. Cameras on the trail are also being considered.