ATV club reaches agreement with Whitewater for trail use

Cobden -- Whitewater Region (WWR) council has approved a five-year land use agreement with the Renfrew County ATV (RCATV) Club commencing on May 1, 2024, for the limited use, maintenance and improvement of the township’s portion of the former CN Rail Line known as B Trail.

The municipality purchased that 35-km segment of the 296-km portion of the former rail line, now known as the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail, which runs from Smiths Falls to Mattawa. The 219-km stretch of the trail passing through Renfrew County is known as the Algonquin Trail. The segment traversing WWR is what is referred to as Trail B.

Manager of Community Services Stephanie Plebon told council at its April 17 meeting this active transportation network will allow WWR to connect with neighbouring and regional communities.

“Partnerships with local user groups will be crucial for the ongoing maintenance and improvement to this new active transportation corridor,” she said. “Staff will continue our engagements with this and other users to ensure the best use of the trail.”

The RCTAV Club requested the land use agreement, which, following discussions between township staff and the club, was drafted with reference to the county’s by-law governing the use of the Algonquin Trail.

Ms. Plebon said the agreement will provide directions for the immediate use and maintenance of WWR’s segment of the trail during the ATV operating season.

“An update to the township’s offroad vehicle by-law will follow and will include considerations for a multi-use trail,” she said.

Councillor Joe Trimm said this is a very positive development.

“I am excited at how this is going forward,” he said. “I’m sure that in future this long, narrow park we have acquired can be used for other recreational activities such as walking and cycling.”

CAO Ivan Burton said staff is working with council’s direction and will amend the off-road vehicle to specify uses as determined by council.

Planned support activities for the CN Trail by RCATV have an approximate value of up to $48,400. They include trail grading valued at $3,000, trail warden services amounting to $5,700, outreach and promotion to a value of $1,000, trail stewardship valued at $2,500, and a capital program for bridge repairs and re-decking) at a value of $36,200.

Councillor Mike Moore asked if this funding will come from grants applied for and obtained by the RCATV.

“It’s a combination of grants, trail pass revenue and partnerships with other organizations,” Ms. Plebon said.

The club has begun ongoing maintenance, including grading of the trail. Mr. Burton said the RCATV club, in partnership with WWR and the Beachburg Agricultural Society (fair board) is hosting an event in early May for ATVs and utility vehicles.

“It will be a tour beginning at the Beachburg fair grounds,” he said. “It will likely bring a lot of tourism to the community. It is imperative that we get this agreement in place as soon as possible.”

Councillor Chris Olmstead said he has heard “grumblings” from potential users about the need to purchase a pass to use the trail.

“I am wondering if the RCATV could provide some information on what is required and what the pass gets them,” he said. “Also, if somebody comes from out of province, what is required?”

Mr. Burton agreed information, perhaps in the form of a pamphlet or through social media, could convey the outcomes of council’s decision that is one will need a pass when utilizing this portion of the line in WWR region with an ATV or side-by-side, and how the revenue from the passes will be used.

“The RCATV has presented a program to us and this will be included as part of the agreement,” he said. “There’s grading, warden services, outreach and promotion, and stewardship. The $36,200 capital program includes replacing decking on some of the bridges. So approximately $50,000 will be invested in our community through this permit and other granting mechanisms, so that is the advantage of having that permit system. The county does quite limited maintenance such as some brushing, but much of it is done by the ATV club.”

Mayor Neil Nicholson told Ms. Plebon and CAO Burton representatives of the RCATV Club would be welcome to come back to council for more in-depth discussions.

“We want them to know that we’re all in, in supporting this, not only as a resource for the community, but also (to support) tourism and the greater Renfrew County trail system,” he said. “We want to be active partners, because it is an excellent investment into an existing facility.”

Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader