The section of the Prescott-Russell Trail that runs through Champlain Township is one of the most popular sections of the recreational trail. Mayor Normand Riopel would like to discuss an ownership arrangement between the municipality and VIA Rail for the local section.
The section of the Prescott-Russell Trail that runs through Champlain Township is one of the most popular sections of the recreational trail. Mayor Normand Riopel would like to discuss an ownership arrangement between the municipality and VIA Rail for the local section.

Champlain Township mayor open to deal on PR Trail

Gregg Chamberlain
EAP
The mayor of Champlain Township would like to talk with VIA Rail about a deal for the local section of the Prescott-Russell Trail

“If council allows me to, yes,” said Mayor Normand Riopel, during a phone interview September 25, adding that he must have council’s support first before doing anything.

The United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR) owns and manages the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail (PR Trail) through a lease agreement with VIA Rail for use of a former railway bed as the route for the 72-kilometre-long trail. UCPR council, in a recorded vote September 23, decided against a two-year extension of the lease agreement, after several mayors on counties council expressed concerns about future maintenance costs for the recreational trail.

This means that at the end of 90 days the PR Trail route becomes VIA Rail’s sole property again, if neither side makes a move to reopen talks about the lease arrangement. Riopel was one of three mayors who voted for the extension and also indicated interest in talking to VIA Rail officials about a separate deal for the Champlain Township section of the trail.

But Riopel noted that he might wait to see if either the UCPR or VIA Rail, which is part of CN Rail, expresses any wish to reopen talks about the lease extension before the 90-day deadline.

“We have to wait and see what the arrangement is with the counties,” he said. “If CN makes a counter offer, we’re not going to jump the gun.”

Riopel described the PR Trail as a valuable part of Champlain Township recreation and tourism sector. He also thinks that walkers, cyclists and others will still have access to the trail even though its future right now is uncertain.

“I don’t think CN is going to start locking up every gate,” he said. “Right now, let’s see what CN might willing to offer.”