To the Editor:
I am the President of Riverland Recreational Trail Society, the volunteer non-profit organization that operates the abandoned rail corridor as a multi-use recreational trail. I must confess Duane Gagne’s letter in the Oct. 5 St. Paul Journal left me confused and scratching my head so I felt I needed to respond. After sifting through the muddle, I would like to make the following points.
First, I am not clear why you are directing your comments at Reeve Robert Bouchard and the County of St. Paul. Riverland Recreational Trail Society is the organization that has been in contact with the landowner as much as five years ago about the plan to put an access route in from the Iron Horse Trail to Fort George Buckingham House. The access route is seasonal and allows ATVs, horse and wagons, cyclists and hikers a way to visit one of our region’s tourist attractions, likely providing it with some needed extra visitors.
Second, movement and management of cattle and water access were discussed with the landowner and Melvin Beiber, who was introduced to us as the gentleman who rents the land for pasture. Mr. Beiber and the landowner had specific instructions on how to fence the road access which included the request for two cross gates. Riverland Recreational Trail Society fenced the route in accordance with the landowner’s wishes.
Third, the access route has rounded texas gates for ATVs to go over, thus eliminating the need for them to open and close gates. Anyone who has been on the Iron Horse Trail knows this is a well proven and (an extremely) effective and successful method of keeping cattle in and still allowing ATVs access. We, as a group, have also proven that we work hard with any real issues to resolve them as they might happen. This most often becomes a combination of good neighbour efforts from all parties, and solutions are almost always found, in the interests of the general public of the region. We here prefer not to engage in rhetorical negativities that become irresolvable.
Lastly, when a cow was killed on Highway 646, we reluctantly agreed to give Mr. Beiber the benefit of doubt even though there was no evidence that a trail user had left a gate open. Regardless, we took immediate action and locked the metal gates. About two weeks later, another cow was hit and again, it was blamed on trail users leaving gates open. Perhaps you are not aware that an area resident had contacted us to let us know that cattle were out. They checked the gates and confirmed that all were closed and the locks intact. We called the RCMP to report cows out a full day prior to one being hit. I would highly recommend anyone with questions to take a visit to the access route. Logistically, Gagne’s account of what supposedly occurred has holes wide enough to ride an ATV through.
Here are the facts as we know them. Cattle got out even after we had locks installed on the metal gates therefore, trail users did not leave the gates open. I know from witnesses that cattle are frequently out, usually at the Elk Point airport and this is an issue dating back well past the introduction of the access route. The access route was built with input and in accordance with the wishes of the landowner.
At this point, we are not sure if we are dealing with the landowner, Mr. Beiber or yourself, and there also seems to be a lot of confusion over who owns the cattle. This seems like a purposeful intertwining of people and ownership with the intent to discredit the Iron Horse Trail, user groups, Reeve Bouchard and the County of St. Paul.
President of Riverland Recreational Trail Society