There’s a cycling trail beside this highway!

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Given the success of the weekend-long bike festival along the PPJ Trail, July

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Given the success of the weekend-long bike festival along the PPJ Trail, July
27-29, with its events in Wyman/Quyon, Shawville, Campbells Bay, Fort-Coulonge/Mansfield, Waltham and Isle-aux-Allumettes, cycling has been on my mind (my partner Lynne was a major contributor, plus multiple family-cyclists). Driving the 148, I often pass cyclists struggling along on the highway. They’re battling speeding vehicles & their stinky wind, and all on a sliver of pavement. Why are they passing up one of the best cycling paths in the province (as I’m told) – almost beside them?
Last week three were stopped with their bikes and a bike-trailer along the highway – so I pulled over and asked that question. All three were from Québec City, and had never heard of the PPJ Cycloparc. Heading to Thunder Bay, they had found no mention of Pontiac’s trail in their research. They seemed slightly suspicious of my news that a great trail was just to their right, but they said they’d turn off ahead and check it out.
How could it be that they had not heard of Pontiac PPJ Trail? 
At the festival itself I spoke to a few cyclists, several from Ottawa, plus a Beachburg group, and they raved about Pontiac’s trail. Despite a downpour, they were smiling – and planning to return. Several local folks added their own rave reviews. All of them claim the trail deserves its reputation. They cited the beauty of our landscape – rolling fields, lush corn, soy and barley, pasture land.
The forested areas were praised, double-time, around Mansfield and Waltham and especially where the trail skirts the Ottawa River.
These cyclists are mature; they’ve travelled widely. They seemed solid in their enthusiasm, and, again, their plans to return. They volunteered to spread the word, and the Beachburg group promised to bring back the whole club.
I drove away, not cycling, but proud to hear good news about the Pontiac, rave reviews. No one complained about the detour around a washout, although all noted that gravel, not rock dust, has been spread on parts of the trail’s surface, making cycling difficult. They praised the rest stops.
Pontiac has a real gem, running much of its length.
A gem that deserves to be part of Eastern Canada’s tourism marketplace. It has connecting routes to other communities and attractions. Two cyclists spent a night at Parc Leslie Lake. Several other regions in Québec have Route Verte cycling trails, and they are busy attractions, bringing tourists and their spending
to the local economy. Cycling is upscale, modern, healthy.
It clearly brings tourist dollars. We have an incredible attraction. That’s news!
Is there not some way the PPJ Cycloparc can be better promoted? Can signage be more visible, so those long-distance cyclists don’t labour past our big attraction? 
It’s encouraging to see so many local businesses supporting the bike festival – that’s the participation the trail needs, as well as more solid government support. Obviously the job can’t be left to civil servants, but can’t their participation and contribution be more effective?
There remains the issue of multi-use. Multi-use has its place, its attractiveness, and its limits. None of the cyclists in my tiny poll favoured ATVs or any motorized
vehicles on the trail – surface damage, fenceline harm, dust and exhaust, noise, danger, and good trail manners pose problems. Quads are also a big form of tourism, blossoming as snowmobiling did in the last decade. Pontiac can accommodate both – our own citizens, visitors, our businesses will profit – but using the same facilities makes no one happy. Would ATVers really want to deal with growing bike traffic on routes they use? Just one serious accident ….
Pontiac is not only beautiful, it’s big. We have the space and routes to serve all groups – from skiers and snowmobilers to hikers, cyclists and ATVs. There’s no need for tug-of-wars – our network of rural roads could serve ATVers easily, giving them access to much more territory than present routes.
Let’s use our resources, our big space, our attractions. Leadership is a question, as
is funding and resources, but, finally, we have a real win-win for our communities.