Context fundamental in building community in Chelsea, Quebec


by admin on June 24, 2010

The Editor,

Bob Vandenberg suggests that my criticism of the way the Meredith Centre development process has been handled is a “fairy tale” (Low Down, June 16 edition). Oh Bob, would that this tale was, indeed, fair!

It’s understandable that you might feel frustration that the hard work of the Chelsea Foundation has not resulted in a vision the entire community can embrace. Working as I do for many unpaid hours a week on the boards of two provincial networks and various other steering committees for community health, education and the arts, I agree that community development is tough work. It’s also true that taken out of context, there is not that much to argue against in building a community centre. But context is everything, starting with the geographic reality of Chelsea, Quebec which works against the concept of a “centre-ville” and the need for an urbanization plan in Old Chelsea.

Many Chelsea residents are dismayed that dramatic increases in municipal taxes have brought few discernible improvements to services, and they do not trust mega-projects to resolve these issues. Consultations on the Meredith Centre did not alleviate this mistrust, as the past municipal election demonstrated. It’s also a bit disingenuous to argue that there has always been mutual exclusivity of the municipal council and Chelsea Foundation’s ambitions now that the former CF president is our mayor. Chelsea was not always a divided community. It is now, and the dividing line is the agenda of the municipal council and whom it’s there to serve.

Chelsea has many wonderful assets from which to work that don’t have to involve suburbanization, including Gatineau Park and the Gatineau River, which I feel privileged to enjoy, being pretty outdoorsy myself. Unfortunately, the Meredith Centre is part of a process that represents for the other half of Chelsea a lack of imagination in how to best serve the entire municipality.

By the way, my Mum used to call me Peter Rabbit – brought back a nice memory, thanks.

Peter MacGibbon

Chelsea, Quebec