Log Cabin Chronicles

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For nearly a decade there have been plans to turn the abandoned Canadian Pacific Railroad railbed in Quebec's Tomifobia River Valley into a trail for walkers, cyclists, and skiiers. However, the non-profit organization that now owns the land and is behind the project has run into stiff oppostion in one town. There has been no end of name calling, finger pointing, mumbled character assassination, and charges of bad faith on both sides. It has become a poisonous issue in the community and has been the cause of the end of old friendships. Two town council members recently resigned because of it. Human beings are funny that way.

The players in this gentle farce include Sentier Massawippi, the group that owns the old rail bed and wants to finish its bike trail that runs from Ayer's Cliff, on Lake Massawippi, through the Tomifobia River Valley and Ogden, to the Vermont border. The trail is finished on both sides of the Town of Ogden. The Tomifobia Valley Homeowners is a small local group of dedicated anti-bike trail activists. "Piste Off: The Musical" refers to Pro Piste Ogden, an ad-hoc group of pro-trail residents. And the writer Xenia Zanofile? Ummmm, any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, and referred to without malice. Read on...]

Still Playing Silly Buggers
or
The Trails Are Alive With Sound Of Music

ROSS MURRAY

STANSTEAD, QUEBEC | To celebrate Sentier Massawippi's tenth anniversary and their new motto "It's Still Quicker than Walking," the trail group plans to bring its story to the stage this summer.

Rehearsals are scheduled to begin at the Haskell Opera House this Saturday for Piste Off: The Musical.

"There will be singing, dancing, love, conflict, and of course, bikes. Lots and lots of bikes," said Xenia Zanofile, a new Sentier Massawippi board member who has been assigned the task of mounting this musical production. "We thought about putting in horses but that would just be silly."

Zanofile is new to the region but has a rich history of eco-recreo-tourismo theatrical productions. In 1998, she won a prestigious Oogie Award in Banff for her original one-woman show t's My Turtle and I'll Fondle It If I Damn Well Want To.

[EDITOR'S ASIDE: If you have an unrequited yearning for Hot 'n Spicy Snapping Turtle Soup I have the original recipe. It calls for snappers from the Tomifobia River but turtles from away can be substituted.]

Her newest production, Piste Off, will tell the tale of Sentier Massawippi's efforts to construct a bike trail between Ayer's Cliff and Stanstead.

"We were going to touch on the North Hatley years but the property owners there ganged up on us and threatened a lawsuit if we even mentioned them," said Zanofile. "They're American, you know."

At the centre of the musical are the young lovers Hans and Becky. Living at opposite ends of the trail, their love is thwarted by efforts to block the trail's completion.

"A wicked witch lurking in the Tomifobia River cursed the young lovers so that they can only see each other if they are sitting on bicycles. It's a metaphor. Get it?" said Zanofile helpfully.

Zanofile, who has received several Canada Council grants and has written 122 songs (unpublished and for sale), said there are several poignant numbers between the romantic leads, including one called "Pedal, My Petal":

    Hans

    If you could be with me here on the trail
    I would speed like a demon
    Not crawl like a snail

    Becky

    The night is so lovely
    It makes me desire
    That you were the patch kit
    And I were the tire.

"Some might say we're biased in our production but I've really tried to make this a true 'docu-drama' with the emphasis on 'docu,' " said Zanofile. "For instance, we let the people on the other side have a fair say in a song called 'Hey, Hit The Brakes, You Ignorant Freaks.' "
    Tomifobia chorus:

    What's it all about? Where's the railroad gone?

    Can you prove that cycling strangers won't pee on our lawn?

    Do you have the permits? Is that so very hard?

    You can cycle anywhere just not in my back yard.

While rehearsals are scheduled to start this Saturday at the Haskell, Sentier Massawippi's new drama league has hit a snag. For one, the script is not complete and Zanofile isn't quite sure of the ending.

"I just know it will be perfect," she said.

As well, the Haskell board of trustees is reportedly less than enthusiastic about the prospect of bikes in the opera house, not to mention the full cycling track to be built around the balcony.

"They haven't provided us with a plan, they haven't provided us with a budget, and their poster is really ugly," said a trustee, who asked to remain anonymous but who swears he has no property adjacent to the opera house.

The Haskell's resident theatrical company QNEK is also in a snit because they are also ready to begin rehearsals this weekend.

"Well, we sympathize with QNEK," said Zanofile. "But I think we can all agree that ours is a very important production clearly for the betterment of the community. Surely, their little play can be put on somewhere else."

Sentier Massawippi is now seeking contributions to help mount this production.


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Copyright © 2000 Ross Murray/Log Cabin Chronicles/04.2000