There has been quite a bit of consternation and weeping and gnashing of teeth concerning the dock bylaw in our area of Farm Point and elsewhere along the river. In the Sustainable Development Strategic Vision 2040 Report published by Brodeur Frenette in January 2021, only six per cent (15 of 248 respondents) of those surveyed identified accessibility to the river as being important. And yet the municipality seems determined to have public access to the Gatineau River for so small a percentage of the population. The same report indicates that 50 per cent of respondents identified quality of life and environmental protection as being important.
Does this dock scenario smell fishy? — a dock that has been on the river for over 30 years and paid for by residents may now be expropriated and then leased back to residents for $500 a year. Is this a new form of taxation?
What happened to the public access consultation that was to be followed by a return to the dock bylaw? We were led to believe that this report would indicate criteria for selection of the public access sites, and that all the suggestions from the public would be referenced and evaluated against these criteria. At the August council meeting, the waters appear to have been muddied once again regarding this issue.
Is dock expropriation being used as a political hook to gain votes in the upcoming election? Voters might like the idea of river access for all, even though they may never use the river. Does the municipalization of docks sound like a good pseudo-democratic election promise?
What is important for other Chelsea residents to understand is that for many Farm Point was the only affordable place to live in Chelsea and there also happened to be river access. Chemin de la Rivière is neither the easiest nor the safest access to the river. Almost all of us live on steep, private dirt roads, and docks are shared with anywhere from a handful of neighbours to as many as 80. Chelsea wants to expropriate roadside docks shared by many members of those residing on roads who could not afford to buy land on the river and whose docks have been shared [and] maintained, and [which have] protected the river for 30-40 years or more.
Some of us are close to the river, but that is because we are situated on a narrow strip of land so close to Hwy 5. I imagine that the sharing of docks by numerous households also applies to many roads south of Tulip Valley. It is a fallacy that only the rich live on and have access to the river.
There are also many other accessible water spots in the area. Council appears to be fixated only on access to the Gatineau River. For example, what about access to Chelsea De La Paix Park and Beamish Lake — Laurette Bedard and Herve Lemaire speak about a wonderful resource that should be utilized (“Reality of Chelsea’s De La Paix Park,” Aug. 4 edition).
I believe that Chelsea has more pressing issues than spending time and resources determining who should or should not keep their docks. We need better regulation of development, municipal government transparency, and protection of the environment. Look at the above-mentioned report and see what the residents of Chelsea want from their municipal government. These issues should be the priority of council.
Andre Chenier is a resident of Farm Point.