ACRE aims to save another 70 acres
Innovative deal struck to preserve McMartin land
A fundraising effort is underway to buy one of the largest undeveloped parcels left in Chelsea.
In early January, Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment (ACRE) and Pierre McMartin signed a deal to protect the majority of his 88 acres of land between the Larrimac Golf Course and Hwy. 5. McMartin is partially selling and partially donating 70 per cent of the parcel to ACRE. The 70 acres are appraised at $1.4 million and ACRE must raise $950,000 to buy it.
Chelsea developer Carrie Wallace described this deal as win-win.
“This is a pretty amazing project happening at Pierre McMartin’s property,” she said.
For decades people have walked, skied, biked, or snowshoed the trails leading from Larrimac Golf Course to the Carbide Willson Ruins in Gatineau Park. This deal will allow the community to continue utilizing the land for non-motorized recreation. It will also allow for McMartin to develop houses on the other 18 acres of his prime real estate.
It’s not just the people who will benefit, but also the wildlife, ACRE President Stephen Woodley said. The forest is home to old growth groves, “ancient wetlands,” fens, and is a federally-recognized corridor for wildlife to move between Gatineau Park and the Gatineau River.
“It’s a beautiful piece of land,” Woodley said.
The land is called the Jolicoeur-McMartin Forest and is named after McMartin and his wife Darquise Jolicoeur.
From adversaries to allies
During the municipal approval process for the Chelsea Highlands housing development on Larrimac Golf Club, ACRE, Wallace, and McMartin were anything but friends.
ACRE didn’t want to see the golf club’s lands be developed and McMartin wanted Wallace’s development to provide him road access to his land for development.
Discussion at a February 2019 meeting at the Larrimac Golf Club about the club’s development plans suggested that people were against the club and Wallace’s project because they wanted to protect the undeveloped Larrimac land and because the undeveloped land would act as a buffer against further development on McMartin’s land.
When asked about how this deal came just two years after this tense point in their relationship, Wallace said that the discourse around her Chelsea Highlands put the divisiveness of the community on full display, so she wanted to bridge that divide. Luckily, she has a knack for negotiating.
“I believe there’s far more common ground to be found than one can imagine between partners that were at one time adversarial,” she said. “I really believe in win-win projects. I get extremely frustrated with the division in Chelsea,” Wallace later said.
When asked about this change of heart, Woodley credited Wallace’s work to broker the deal. He’s happy that it has allowed for the majority of McMartin’s land to be protected.
“It’s a reasonable agreement,” Woodley said.
Wallace also credited the work of Chelsea municipal staff who worked to create the legal framework to allow for this land purchase and donation.
“It would not have happened if it hadn’t been for their creativity,” she said.
ACRE’s fundraising goal of $950,000 will cover the $800,000 purchase price – McMartin has agreed to gift $600,000 of the land through the federal ecological gift program – as well as the general and Quebec sales tax, the land transfer tax, and funds to establish stewardship of the land.
Woodley said that the closing date for the sale is at the end of June 2022 but ACRE must show that it has raised half of the necessary funds by the end of March.
Donations can be pledged by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.