The United Counties of Prescott and Russell is hoping to turn Larose Forest into a destination location for mountain bikers.
Last year, the UCPR pledged $25,000 a year for the next five years to create a trail network in the forest. That amount is being financed by the forest’s reserve fund.
About 20 kilometres of trails have been built so far and now Louis Prévost, the UCPR’s director of planning, is looking to expand to more than three times that distance.
The UCPR has partnered with the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) to maintain the trails.
OMBA members volunteer to maintain trails across the region, says President Sandra Beaubien. As a return for their efforts, the UCPR is asking users of the Larose Forest trails to become a member of the association.
So far, it’s worked, says Beaubien—the association’s membership has grown to more than 500 people.
Now the OMBA is looking for locals to sponsor the trails and volunteer to monitor their proper use. That would help ensure minimal environmental impact.
Before the UCPR went ahead with the project, Prévost says it undertook a study to ensure the trails won’t have a negative impact on local wildlife. Beaubien echoes that and explains there are portions of the forest that will remain free of any biking trails.
Maintaining the balance
The forest makes up a massive green space within the South Nation Conservation Authority’s jurisdiction.
John Mesman, the organization’s communication’s director, says mountain biking has been increasing in popularity.
“From our perspective, anything that gets people outdoors, we’re very supportive of,” he says. “When you add a trail network or a new activity to a forest like that, it could impact daily or seasonal habitat use depending on the timing and intensity and the amount of area being disturbed by the new activity,” he adds.
The best way to minimize that is to simply use trails appropriate for the activity and ensuring you stay on the trails.
That is made a little bit easier by the fact Larose Forest is a man-made plantation. But that doesn’t mean sensitive ecosystems haven’t established themselves over time, says Mesman.
“You have to try and keep the balance between people and nature.”