The announcement had fallen a few weeks ago, and the trail linking l’Étape to the Saguenay region remains open. Many snowmobilers as well as several recreational organizations renting snowmobiles and organized trips had been wondering about this for a few months, following the announcement earlier this fall of the possible closure of the trail caused by three culverts that were too damaged.
This situation created a real headache at all levels for snowmobilers both here and on the other side of Laurentian Park. Many snowmobile relays rely on many snowmobiles that travel the trail through the Laurentian Park to operate, including the Relais du Mont Apica. Traffic would have had to pass Lac-Saint-Jean by La Tuque to head towards the Saguenay, or take a significant detour on the TQ-83 trail, which goes near La Malbaie, and then head towards Quebec City.
One of the major issues was the cost of repairing the culverts. The operation was estimated to cost about $250,000, an amount impossible for a snowmobile club to pay. But here’s the thing: who should pay for it? The Club de Motoneigistes du Saguenay president, Jocelyn Charest, sounded the alarm this fall at the FCMQ. He explained to them that the Club alone could not support such an amount. This amount is in addition to all the other amounts that must be spent locally.
The trenches were old and in a precarious state, so it was also impossible to make temporary repairs at a lower cost to postpone repairs until next year.
The difference between the local trails and the TQ-23 and R368 trails that criss-cross the Laurentian Park is that they are essential to regional tourism, and many hotels, restaurants, lodges and other regional tourism industry players rely on snowmobiles passing through this trail. There was no detour possible; if a detour had been possible, how long would it have lasted? It was therefore imperative that a sustainable and reliable solution be found.
Many players are involved in the file. The MRC du Fjord du Saguenay and Lac-Saint-Jean Est, the Club des Motoneigistes du Saguenay and the Club Motoneigiste du Lac-Saint-Jean, the city of Saguenay, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the FCMQ worked together to find a solution. This is an excellent outcome for everyone and an ideal solution that will allow the passage to continue.
An increasingly common situation
Even though this is a large-scale issue involving many sectors, the trails and passages through the various sectors of our province are, in many cases, becoming more and more difficult to preserve and maintain. Quebec snowmobile clubs work hard (voluntarily) every season to keep rights of way and find solutions to keep the snowmobile segment alive. Every year, some things have to be done over again from the previous year, and a new battle is waged to preserve the trails for all snowmobilers. Hence the importance of respecting the terrain and infrastructure present on the trail network, this story is a testament to that.