• The Low Down

Despite democratic efforts, swimming prohibited

I was deeply saddened to read that La Pêche plans to prohibit swimming at the Wakefield covered bridge. Like generations of Wakefielders before us, my family and I cherish that swimming hole, making our way down Chemin Gendron to swim there as often as three times a day in the hottest parts of the summer. I’ve spent many afternoons sitting at the rock at the bottom of the stairs, my son wrapped in a towel between my arms, slowly warming after exiting the cool waters, as we stare into the descending sun and marvel at this beautiful spot we get to call home. That swimming hole is a sacred place for us.


I know my current sadness doesn’t compare to that of the two families who lost their sons to those turbulent waters. Both young men made mistakes choosing to brave the river when they probably shouldn’t have. It seems neither made good decisions when they visited the river and each paid a terrible price. Now we all pay another price.


I think the municipality took the right moves to manage the challenges that arose as that swimming spot grew in popularity: they banned jumping from the bridge, purchased the land, turned it into a park, and banned alcohol; they encouraged a stronger police presence; and, last year, added signs indicating just how risky those waters can be to those who don’t know them.


This was the democratic process managing a place that has both great risks and incalculable benefits. I’m thus especially saddened that the municipality’s efforts to manage this challenge with care, have been overtaken by a coroner’s recommendation, which council has little choice but to implement. So much for democracy.


My only hope now is that, once the message gets out and an initial wave of enforcement is past, the MRC police learn to practice some leniency towards those of us who still – occasionally – dip into that beautiful, swirling pool of water so dear to us.


Peter Andree lives in Wakefield