School road open to students in Wakefield, Quebec

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by Mark Burgess on September 9, 2010

The Western Quebec School Board and Richard Fortin have reached an agreement to reopen School Road to Wakefield, Quebec Elementary students, tearing down a barrier that blocked the popular route for more than a year.

Fortin, a land surveyor with the firm Fortin and Legault, closed the private road in June 2009 – erecting what some parents derisively referred to as “The Berlin Wall” – after his complaints about students’ behaviour near his professional building fell on deaf ears.

Fortin said he tried to address what he considered lax supervision for months with little co-operation from the school and the board. The barricade prevented students from using the road for the entire 2009-10 school year.

Fortin said the agreement with the board involved an exchange of land with the WQSB – a stretch along the back of his property where he had built a fence for a slice of the road for students to use. He said the board would also build a fence along the side of his property to enclose his parking lot.

Wakefield Elementary Principal Rolla McIntosh said she’s “ecstatic” about the flexibility School Road will provide.

“Last year was pretty sad,” she said. “We couldn’t get to the skating rink, we couldn’t get to the library without providing bussing.”

Students accustomed to walking to and from school were forced to find rides, since Caves Road was deemed too dangerous for young pedestrians.

Last fall, Wakefield trailblazer Ken Bouchard led a team that set to work constructing an alternative path for students beside School Road. Despite putting in approximately 100 hours of work, he said the board and parents were concerned about the path’s winter maintenance, which led to negotiations with Fortin.

Bouchard will now be taking the second trail apart to prevent its use.

“It’s too bad. It could have been a good trail, but I think the solution they’ve arrived at is a good one,” he said.

The barricade is down, but Fortin is waiting for the fence to be built before opening the road to students.

Trans Canada reroute

Wakefield Elementary students won’t be the only ones profiting from the road’s re-opening. Bouchard, who spearheaded the creation of the Wakefield leg of the Trans Canada Trail, said the route that opened last September will be re-routed up to the MacLaren Cemetery and onto the school trail before coming out at School Road onto Riverside Drive.

The previous route followed Mill Road out of the Gatineau Park down to Riverside Drive, which it follows to Gendron Road and Hendricks Park.