Local mayors did not agree Wednesday with a proposal that would see parts of the Prescott Russell Recreational Trail closed down. The proposal was presented at the counties’ latest council meeting on March 22.

The report, prepared by UCPR Economic Development Director Carole Lavigne, suggested a scenario where maintenance would be done only in “commonly used” sections of the Recreational Trail, with under-used sections closed and marked “Do not enter.” The report also suggested a committee be formed with a representative from the recreation departments of Clarence-Rockland, Alfred-Plantagenet, Champlain and East Hawkesbury. That committee would work on increasing use of the path, with initiatives like activities and contests. They would also develop “circuits” which would use local roads as well as sections of the Recreational Trail. The report suggests an incentive program, such as doing a monthly draw for a prize for users.

Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux said he didn’t have a problem with the idea of a committee, but he doesn’t believe the counties should give “prizes for participation” at the Recreational Trail.

The Recreational Trail is a responsibility of the Counties, said Alfred-Plantagenet Mayor Fernand Dicaire. “The contract with VIA is with the counties. I don’t think I’ll authorize by recreation director to participate in a committee. It’s not our jurisdiction,” he said.

Hawkesbury Mayor Jeanne Charlebois said she wasn’t against the idea of the committee, either. The issue has been dragging on for years, she said, and a decision should be made soon.

Warden Gary Barton said he’s “leery” of shutting down only certain sections of the Recreational Trail. “The trail in itself is an asset,” he said. “The issue is what it’s costing us to maintain it on property that does not belong to us.” Barton said property owner Via Rail “is not very open to negotiating.” He suggested setting aside Lavigne’s report for now, saying he wanted to consult with staff at Champlain Township, which is what ultimately happened.

Trail budget cut in October 2016

The Recreational Trail budget for 2017 was reduced by $140,000 to $100,000 in October at the suggestion of 2016 Counties Warden Guy Desjardins. Hawkesbury Mayor Jeanne Charlebois and Champlain Mayor Gary Barton voted against the budget reduction. Then, Carole Lavigne, head of economic development and tourism at the counties, said cuts might be made to the maintenance budget, which was $84,000 in 2016. The one full-time position included in the Recreational Trail budget was not at risk, she said.