The United Counties of Prescott-Russell council (UCPR) voted 5-3 in a recorded vote Wednesday, September 23, against a two-year extension of the lease agreement between the UCPR and VIA Rail concerning the former railway route that has served as the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail.
The 72-kilometre-long walking and cycling trail extends from one end of the Prescott-Russell to the other, with links to recreational trails in the Ottawa area and also those leading into Eastern Québec. The mayors of Alfred-Plantagenet, Russell, and East Hawkesbury Townships, and the municipalities of The Nation and Casselman voted against extension of the lease agreement. The mayors for the City of Clarence-Rockland, Champlain Township, and the Town of Hawkesbury voted in favour.
Several of the mayors voting against extending the lease agreement cited a report from the UCPR public works department presented during the meeting. The report provided a preliminary assessment of the costs for future maintenance of the recreational trail over the next 10 years.
The report indicated that the UCPR would have to budget $400,000 to $600,000 a year to maintain the trail in safe condition for users. Comments from some mayors indicated the UCPR could better spend the money on its own county road improvements.
The proposed two-year extension of the lease agreement with VIA Rail would have seen the railway company provide the UCPR with $40,000 a year for each of the two years towards upkeep of the recreational trail.
Once the UCPR sends VIA Rail written notice for termination of the lease agreement there is a 90-day period before the end of the deal becomes official.