• Hunter Cresswell

Community trail now 'Voie Verte Chelsea'

It’s official, the community trail in Chelsea is formally titled “Voie Verte Chelsea” or, directly translated, Chelsea greenway.

Chelsea council voted unanimously for the new name during its Feb. 2 meeting.

Cross-country ski tracks along the trail near the intersection of the newly christened "Voie Verte Chelsea" – formerly known as the community trail – and Chemin Kirk's Ferry in late-January. Low Down file photo

The trail along the converted rail corridor, which runs north-south through the municipality, has been a massive project for Chelsea and a priority for this council. It has also been a subject of controversy for residents concerned over the overall cost – estimated at $3 million just to build without factoring in other costs, such as ongoing maintenance and coming infrastructure – and what it will mean for trail-side residents whose privacy could be impacted.

The lion’s share of the trail construction was completed in 2020, but the final touches – including guardrails along areas with high and steep banks, final surfacing with stone dust, interpretive signage and infrastructure at certain intersections with larger roads along the trail – are expected to get underway this year.

Ward 4 councillor Kay Kerman raised a concern about the name being solely French when Chelsea has a large population of English-only speakers — 1,425 English-only speakers, 570 French-only speakers, but 4,905 bilingual residents, according to the latest Statistics Canada census in 2016.

“For anglophones it might not roll on quite as easily to say, ‘Do you want to meet me at the voie verte? [versus] ‘Do you want me to meet at the trail?’ I think it will be a harder leap for anglophones … In the mind of an anglophone, they’re not going to turn to a French word. They’re going to turn to ‘the community trail’ or ‘the trail’,” Kerman said.

“We did debate that as well,” responded Ward 3 counciller and chair of the Chelsea community trail committee Greg McGuire. “Most of the committee members are anglophone… For what it’s worth, they felt strongly that keeping it the same in both English and French was important — important both in terms of the statement it’s making about the fact that this is in Chelsea, and simple branding that will eventually catch on.”

The council then unanimously voted to approve a whittled-down version of the Chelsea community trail code of conduct.

In November the code of conduct appeared on signs along the trail and on the municipal website. Back then, it included 12 rules, but The Low Down was told by McGuire that the code was still being discussed before final approval. The code passed earlier this month and now only lists seven rules, which are as follows:

  • Speak quietly in residential areas and respect trail quiet hours from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

  • Share the trail and keep to the right so that others can pass.

  • Cyclists, please yield to other trail users, ride at low speed and respectfully alert others when passing.

  • Keep dogs on a leash and clean up after them.

  • Bring all your waste home. Leave no trace.

  • Avoid damaging the classic ski tracks in winter.

  • Do not smoke, light a campfire or drink alcohol on the trail.

This revised code removes caveats about no trespassing; a 20 km/h speed limit; no motorized forms of transportation except devices for people with disabilities; mandatory use of the provided washrooms; access to the river only being allowed at designated sites; and more.

The council also unanimously granted right-of-way on the community trail for a driveway to a home along Chemin Prof-Burt in Larrimac at the cost of the property owner.

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