The United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) will no longer mow the grass at a rundown rest area on County Road 17 between Wendover and Rockland.

On May 24, UCPR council voted to cease all expenses and maintenance associated with the small park on the south side of the road. And even though the park is beside a busy UCPR road, the regional government does not actually own the park property. In 1998, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) transferred responsibility for what was then Highway 17 to the UCPR. The road right-of-way became UCPR land, but the park property has remained under MTO ownership for the past 25 years. Old road maps show the park has been there at least since the early 1970s.

The UCPR has been maintaining the property since 1998 without any financial compensation from the MTO. According to a report from UCPR Director of Public Works Jérémie Bouchard, it now costs about $4,000 each year to mow the grass at the site. The Department of Public Works does not keep statistics on how many people use the rest area, but Bouchard suspects the number is very low. His report says it appears to be used more for vandalism and illegal dumping.

“We’ve been having issues with the Wendover rest area. People have just been putting garbage there for the past decade,” Bouchard told council on May 24.

There are two outhouses in deteriorated condition on the site, which have been improperly used for dumping garbage and hazardous waste. There is also a disconnected hydro pole and what appears to be a disused well. Bouchard advised against the UCPR removing the outhouses on behalf of the MTO because there is a risk of liability to the UCPR for the removal of contaminated soil. If the UCPR was to assume the property from the MTO, it would also be responsible for the removal of a collapsed culvert at the rear of the property.

Bouchard consulted with the Director of Public Works for the City of Clarence-Rockland to see if the municipality was interested in maintaining the rest area, but the city is not interested.

“Have we sent them a bill?” Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux asked Bouchard, referring to the expenses the UCPR has incurred in maintaining the MTO’s property for 25 years.

Bouchard said a bill was never sent to the MTO.

“I would (send a bill),” replied Leroux.

The motion to have the UCPR cease maintaining the old rest area on County Road 17 between Rockland and Wendover was moved by Leroux and seconded by Alfred and Plantagenet Mayor Yves Laviolette and carried unanimously.

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The County Road 17 rest area

Deteriorated outhouses at the County Road 17 rest area. Photo: James Morgan