Since it's inception, the Pontiac Pacific Junction (PPJ) trail was a place bikes and hikers could travel with no fear of meeting another kind of vehicle, not even a horse. But now a group of Quad Clubs are asking for that to change.
A series of petitions have been placed at depanneurs across the MRC Pontiac - including some in the Municipality of Pontiac - asking residents to express approval of the proposal: could ATVs, Quads and other small motorized vehicles have access to the PPJ, as well as other municipal back roads?
Pat Amyotte is president of Quad Pontiac. He told Pontiac2020.ca that mayors of several municipalities in the MRC Pontiac had encouraged the Quad Club to bring the question to the public as a way of helping fund the upkeep of the PPJ.
"The Route Verte funding of the PPJ trail has ended," Amyotte said. "Previously they paid $80,000 for the trail, last year they paid nothing. The bike thing was a good thing, but unfortunately, it's not the right thing. Cyclists are not going to ride 90 km, it's too far. The trail does not connect to other [cycling] trails. A lot of people want to know what is going to happen to it. We [the Quad Club] have the tractors, the equipment. We are actually getting more brush-clearing equipment for our trails this year. The cost is $100,000 a year to look after [the trail] and I think we can do it. But we need to know [what people think]."
Amyotte raises the prospect of making the PPJ trail more profitable for businesses in the villages along its' length.
"It's a white elephant right now," he said. "It's not making the MRC or the businesses any money. Cyclists don't spend any money. A local business owner told me that they come in and ask to fill up their water bottles and use the toilet and that's all. Quad riders buy gas, buy food."
Amyotte does not want to block cyclists and hikers from the PPJ.
"We often meet bikers and walkers on our quad trails and we never yell at them to keep off," he said. "We pay for those trails but they can use them. Unfortunately the shelter at the lookout on Mt. Davidson in Fort Coulonge has been vandalized. We built and paid for that shelter. It's a nice area, a great view. Anyone can use it. We want to support and help develop our communities. People say that quads destroy everything but I think they don't know who ATV owners are or what we do."
Five Quad clubs are helping circulate the petition. There were 567 members last year, 600 the year before. The Quad Pontiac has a clubhouse in Vinton and owns three or four acres of land there.
"We need to bring something to the Pontiac to help make money, we need to support the restaurants along the route," said Amyotte. "We are losing our gas stations in the Pontiac but maybe we could get a portable tank of fuel for quad travelers. If we don't do something with the [trail], we'll lose it. It's not that we don't like bikes, it's just that bikes don't want the track."
The petition is available at Depanneur Pontiac and soon Depanneur Luskville within the Municipality of Pontiac, as well as other depanneurs towards and within Aylmer.
Amyotte hopes to get as many signatures in approval of the proposal by the end of June. Find out more about the Quad Pontiac Club at pontiac.fqcq.qc.ca