Strange times for Wakefield, Quebec


by admin on March 31, 2010

The Editor,

Has it come to this? That the iconic fixture of the Canadian landscape, the family farm with barn and green verdure of rolling pasture dotted with roll mops of hay, is now called an eco campus? That a sewage treatment plant is about to deposit its sludge into a sand quarry upriver of a town ready to dip their cups into the Gatineau?

Is this what we want? The current buzz of expropriation for a landowner who wasn’t even invited to the sale of his property, is beyond humour, even for Wakefield. More disturbing are the mayor’s last words at the recent town hall: “You are not the only ones in the municipality.”

Eco Echo is the brainchild of the landowner Christopher Minnes and his colleagues. The concept of an ecological campus is to showcase, study and learn about sustainable practices to tread lightly on the earth and use natural systems to improve the built environment. Many minds combined to create this project. Stephen W. Armstrong Landscape Architects were first to create the preliminary drawings. The current campus plan is, indeed, a glory to behold, it is a map to the future — if we want to preserve what we love and commit to making it happen.

Drive through Smalltown anywhere in Canada. Wawa comes to mind, where the Strand lumber mill closed years ago, no one is buying iron ingots and Michipicoten Harbour needs a dock. A desperate town looks to the Americans who will build that dock, then blow up the North Shore of Lake Superior for igneous traprock, aggregate filler for driveways and parking lots in Michigan — more old paradigms.

The Sully lands parcel is a case in point (pre-PPU) as several consultants were hired and fired until the effect was achieved: a tourist centre, daycare and now seniors’ apartments, all far away from the centre of village life.

I don’t know what upsets me more, the dialogue of the apartments placement directly opposite a drugstore or the razing of at least a half-dozen giant white pines to achieve that tenuous relationship. The corridor of trees and rock, quintessential Group of Seven landscape, was seen as a natural amenity for the project, walking paths, benches, chipmunks instead of something blocking the view to the pharmacy.

We live in strange times, but I am heartened to say that during the recent town hall

meeting a new generation has picked up the torch, small children in tow, bilingual, savvy in communications, marketing and law. Bring on the Bio Blocs, solar aquatics, kiwi trees . . . I am ready, are you?

Rita Komendant

Wakefield, Quebec