The United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR) and VIA Rail have agreed on a six-month extension of the existing lease arrangement for the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail (PR Trail).
“This is excellent news for snowmobilers,” said Warden Stéphane Sarrazin, at the end of a special UCPR council session December 17.
The future for the PR Trail has been an issue since UCPR council voted earlier in the year to notify VIA Rail that it might not renew the lease agreement for use of the old railway route as a recreational trail. The UCPR’s decision then hinged on whether or not VIA Rail would offer better financial support terms for renewal of the lease agreement. At the time UCPR council had received a detailed report from its public works department that stated the cost for improvements to the trail to deal with user safety issues and also make it more attractive during the summer season to hikers and cyclists would average $60,000 a year over a ten-year period.
The current lease ends on December 31 2020. Now both sides have agreed on a six-month extension until June 30 2021. A UCPR press release states that lease extension will “provide leeway for parties to come to an agreement early in 2021 for the sale of the Prescott and Russell Recreational Trail by VIA Rail to the UCPR.” Discussions between UCPR and VIA Rail will continue during the extension period.
“VIA Rail Canada is pleased with the agreement reached with the UCPR,” stated Dominique Lemay, VIA Rail chief operating officer, in an email, “which is a positive step forward for both parties and the Eastern Ontario region, and good news for all during these pandemic times, when outdoor winter activities are more important than ever.”
Stéphane Parisien, UCPR chief administrator, noted that the extension also means the trail will be available for use by local and visiting snowmobilers as soon as the UCPR and the Eastern Ontario Snowmobile Club confirm an insurance liability agreement for the 2020-2021 season. The trail will also be available for cross-country skiers and snowshoers.