35 km of Trans-Québec trail through Saguenay under threat
|November 13, 2023
Tourists who like to finish their snowmobiling day at the hotel will no longer be able to go there this winter if the situation is not resolved.
At the rate things are going, the snowmobile trail that crosses the city of Saguenay from La Baie to Jonquière, the Trans-Québec 83, will remain closed this winter. Problems are piling up for volunteers from the Club de motoneigistes du Saguenay, and solutions are not coming quickly enough.
"It's not complicated: the 35 kilometres of the Trans-Québec trail will remain closed. We'll be able to ride the local trails, but tourists arriving from Quebec City and Charlevoix won't be able to get to the city, the restaurants and the hotels," points out club president Jocelyn Charest on the trail map.
The map is posted on the wall of the club's offices. The trail in blue, Trans-Québec 83, will remain closed this winter if the problems are not resolved quickly.
Flanked by his vice-president, Éric Lavoie, Lavoie adds that they have problems with rights of way on private land, inaccessible bridges and safety. And for the time being, nothing seems to be resolved in the short term.
"It's one obstacle after another. We're doing volunteer work. We like going out to install signage and repair bridges. We know we're going to have a few problems to deal with, but that's not it any more. There's nothing that can be solved.
The need for a permanent committee
The two volunteers deplore the lack of vision on the part of municipal authorities for the development of this tourism industry, which generates over $110 million in spinoffs for the region.
"What we mean by that is that when it comes to developing the town, they never look at where the trails go. Every year, we end up with a new business on a street corner and new residences at the end of a neighbourhood blocking our way. You can't always get around it, and often you do the work and have to do it all over again two years later. We're happy to help them get snowmobilers down to the hotels, but we're starting to get fed up and we don't get any royalties," explains Jocelyn Charest.
Here's a concrete example. The new branch of the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec on boulevard Mellon in Jonquière is right next to the entrance to the trail leading to the club's premises. "The entrance is so close to the edge of our trail that it's becoming dangerous," says Éric Lavoie, who brings up the idea of a permanent snowmobile committee.
"We've been asking for it for two years. We want to talk to the town and bring hoteliers and shopkeepers together to have a long-term vision.
While there is one person dedicated to snowmobiling issues within the municipal administration, the two men feel that the implementation of a long-term plan requires political will. They asked to meet the presidents of the three boroughs a few weeks ago, but their request went unheeded.
"There's the OHV (off-road vehicle) committee and Serge Gaudreault is the chairman. He listens to us, but he's caught between a rock and a hard place," sighs Mr Charest.
The Club de motoneigistes du Saguenay has 64 volunteers and around 20 groomer drivers. It is responsible for maintaining 500 kilometres of trails. Last year, the organisation had 3,200 permanent members and around 500 snowmobilers paid for a daily or weekly pass