On the 29th, 30th of August and 1st of September 2019 there was a great convergence of the ATV world in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region in Quebec – the Matapedian ATV Festival. This event, among the more famous in Canada’s ATV community, celebrated its 19th birthday this year. Would we say that after nineteen years, the festival has become a redundant activity with its ever-changing Red and Green rides that come back every year? No. Absolutely not.
This year, the Festival gathered 300 ATV riders who came to ride the trails. Having participated in more than 10 years of this festival, I have seen the excitement of over 700 participants from as far away as Pennsylvania to participate in the event. We could feel the fever of festival goers’ excitement vibrate in the air. However, with half of the participants this time, we felt a little less excitement in the streets of the city. However, President André Blouin does not take offense. The aim of the festival is to introduce the region to visitors from outside the area.
“A few years ago the trails were empty in the summer and the hotels were filled only during the festival” explains André Blouin. “Now, hotels and campsites are full from June to September. People come to ride all summer long.”
His assertion was confirmed when Raven-Media’s chief editor Steve Maillet, who accompanied me, told me that he would come back next year with his wife Isabelle, who is fond of beautiful landscapes to discover via ATV.
There are always two different ‘colored’ rides offered at the ATV Festival – Red and Green. During the last year, we have seen real efforts for variations of the routes, whether for the needs of change or necessity by the drastic transformation of the territory. These changes gave positive results because even after several years participation, we were always pleasantly surprised by different beautiful landscapes year after year.
The Red Ride –
The Red Ride is the one that transports us to the highest peaks of the territory at an altitude of approximately 3,000 feet. Notice to those interested – if you want to take advantage of observation vantage points judiciously placed on the Saint-Pierre mountain, in the town of La Rédemption, and on the Val d’Irène mountain, you better choose a sunny day.
From the start, we turned to the viewpoint of Val-Brillant which offers a breathtaking view of the majestic Matapédia Lake. Afterward, the guide will take us to visit The Raspberry Valley of Val-Brillant, which began to produce raspberries, currants, and black currants in 1994. Over the years, they have developed a line of raspberry and blackcurrant wines, many of which have won awards in North American competitions. We revel at the success of these people who have believed in their dreams. They have deployed tremendous amount of tenacity and hard work and are reaping the rewards now.
After the very interesting visit, the group left again along the trail to climb Mount Val d’Irène, where riders could climb into one of the observation towers that offered a dominant view of the surrounding area, and see the weather radar that is used to make observations of the sky of eastern Quebec. Coming down from the mountain, we take again the old network of trails which made the fame of the Matapédia mountain ATV club. You can enjoy several points of view well developed by the Club, such as the Poilu observatory that is overlooking a lake, the fall of the stream Alfred that can be seen from a panoramic viewpoint. Approaching the St-Pierre mountain, the trails meander along the contours of the mountain and cling to its side. On one side, you have to raise your head to follow the slope above us.
After the dinner that was served at La Rédemption, we headed to the St-Pierre mountain to go to the observation tower that was built by the ATV Club. By climbing the side to the summit at 3000 feet, we feel the temperature to cool down a few degrees. Obviously, in addition to the tower, we can not miss the forest of wind turbines that slowly turn their white blades in the sun. In fact, the Lac Alfred wind farm, which was installed in the region in 2012 and 2013, has 150 wind turbines and covers an area of 16,800 hectares (65 mi2). It is the largest wind farm in Canada. Each of the wind turbines required the construction of cleared access roads 200 feet wide, with flattening of uneven ground slopes to allow the transport of convoys of non-standard parts or giant cranes. Such a rampage of a wild natural environment to implant, as ironic as it may be when you think about it, a way of producing green and renewable energy in the name of the environment.
Although the forest roads are somewhat dull to ride, in a certain way it is a pleasure to see a group of wind turbines appear at the end of a curve or on top of a hill.
Finally, the group stops at the “Spanish Flu Camp,” which is a memorial erected on the site of a former logging camp that marks the tragic death of loggers struck by the Spanish flu in the fall of 1918. Renovated in recent years, this site encourages us to think about how difficult life was at that time.
The Green Ride –
The next day, we started the Green ride on a new trail that leads us to the Philomène falls. We saw the footbridge overlooking the fall, which has a height of 100 feet. This construction, which is a scenic tourist attraction, has become a jewel for the region. The bravest go down and up the 207 steps of the stairs to visit the falls. The day starts heartily testing your cardio, but the descent is worth it. Barely back up, we leave, still panting, heading towards the second point of the visit.
We arrived at the honey bee farm Miel Vallée Fleurie, which is another small company producing local products. Their products are showcased in a shop decorated as a former general store with superb wooden furniture made by the owner, who is also a cabinetmaker. Their specialty is the production of all kinds of honey – Clover honey, creamy honey, forest honey and succulent little sweets such as small pots of honey-based chocolate or honey caramel.
Next we paid a visit to the site of the Falls and Swamps of the Causapscal River. Initially, this site was developed for the purpose of protecting salmon from poaching, by keeping spawning fish in a pit with a barrier guarded 24 hours a day. The site was already impressive, as you could see salmon jumping out of the water from time to time. In addition, near the barrier, we can see the dorsal fins of the salmon swimming along the water, the nose in the current. In recent years, a salmon interpretation component and a showroom have been developed. A submerged camera transmits on a screen installed in the showroom so you can see the salmon swimming in the pit. A very interesting and informative visit, and frankly it was very unexpected as far in the woods.
In the afternoon, we drove trails located in narrow forest trails (as I like them), then in fodder fields and blond grain ready to be harvested. Then at the end of a curve arises a belvedere on top of a mountain, at the foot of which stretches the village of St-Léon-le-Grand. There we could see a vista that characterizes both the agricultural and forest character of the region; we appreciated the mosaic mix of green and blond fields, wooded lots, all laid out on the undulating flanks of the Humqui River valley.
This is where everything is possible
The Matapedian ATV Festival is a great gathering event to promote the festive aspect of the ATV activity to the inhabitants of the region and guide the outside visitors. All the resources of the club’s volunteers are mobilized for the success of the festival.
Whatever the case may be, the Matapédia ATV Club has set the groundwork for an ATV club management model that is a reference in the ATV world, even outside Quebec’s borders. When one remembers the history of the achievements of the team of volunteers, one can only note that this club has always been a precursor in the operation of such a club –
• First club to install a complete trail signalization that will always direct the visitor towards his goal. There is even a sign at the intersections showing “you are here” with the current position shown on a map. In 2003, they install signs indicating the names of landowners with the words “Thank you” in recognition that the 650km of trails only exist thanks to their generosity to give a right of way.
• Installation of four observation towers, park benches and picnic tables made of recycled plastic all wisely located on the territory.
• Maintenance and repair of almost all walkways and bridges on its territory, even some that they do not use. In the same spirit, repair of tourist facilities of other partners, but also used by the ATVs. This is excellent for social acceptability.
• In the fall of 2018, the Club is in charge of erecting a footbridge overlooking the Philomène falls. This belvedere, already famous throughout Quebec, demonstrates the generosity of an ATV organization that provides the community with an appeal accessible to all, even to people in wheelchairs.
• Participation in Excellence and Tourism Merits competitions. In 2002 and 2006 the ATV Club won the Grand Prize of Tourism of Gaspésie and in 2014, Laureate of a Grand Prize of Tourism in Quebec – Tourist Excellence – Gaspésie region.
In the field, we feel the results of this search for excellence and innovation to make positively known the ATV activity. People talk about the ATV as a tourism resource and not a nuisance. We see the smile of the merchants when one ATV rider shows up in their store. The public has become aware that ATVs, beyond the reprehensible behavior of a few troublemakers, bring really good business in the region. And here comes the unthinkable – the ATVs bring more money in the local economy than the snowmobiles.