More Chelsea residents could have access to the Gatineau River within the next couple of years, which may include a boardwalk and a swimming dock.
Discussions about water access swirled during a public consultation at the Farm Point community centre on Sept. 27, as representatives from A4 Architecture, a firm based in Gatineau, led a presentation, which showcased tentative ideas for the future of Farm Point’s waterfront.
Four municipal council members were present: Ward 2 Coun. Dominic Labrie; Ward 4 Coun. Christopher Blais; Ward 3 Coun. Cybèle Wilson; and Ward 5 Coun. Rita Jain. While council members played no active role in the consultation – other than answering a few inquiries during the question period – they listened in on the plethora of lively discussions.
To a room of approximately 30 people, associate architect Sophie Lamothe asked attendees to share thoughts on how they would like Farm Point’s waterfront to transform in the next decade. The architects asked for feedback on the following aspects of water access: activities, equipment, security, and the environment.
During the opening presentation, Lamothe proposed a boat ramp for motorized boats, docks for non-motorized boats, and secure space for swimming. Another suggestion was the installation of a secured swimming pool – i.e. a floating dock with a hole in the middle. This type of structure would block the river’s strong current, making it a safer option for children and inexperienced swimmers.
In some sketches, they included a boardwalk along the Gatineau River, reminiscent of Wakefield’s boardwalk. If this boardwalk were to be installed, it would need to be placed on stilts for lack of room between the road and the river.
Architects also bounced around the idea of installing a boat cleaning station.
After the opening presentation, Chelsea residents had the opportunity to share how they would like the water access point to look.
At the end of the hour, A4 Architecture representatives summarized the feedback and reported that the meeting attendees were most concerned about safety.
Lamothe said that there was a lot of discussion on how to safely situate the boat ramp in relation to the designated swimming spot. Another major concern she identified was the strength of the river current, with regard to swimming. As a possible solution, some residents said the municipality should hire lifeguards.
Safety risks of having a boardwalk so close to Hwy 105 was another concern. Some attendees said that without proper lights and guardrails, cars rolling at high speeds could put pedestrians at risk.
During the question period, one Farm Point resident, Tineke Kujiper, asked whether the municipality would consider installing docks in the area to evaluate whether there is a need for it, before diving into large construction projects like the ones presented during the meeting, like a boat cleaning station, the swimming pool, and the boardwalk. In response to this question, many attendees nodded their heads, seemingly favouring a gradual approach to creating water access.
According to previous public consultations held by Chelsea regarding water access points, the Farm Point shore along the Gatineau River was the most preferred location.
“Because we have the infrastructure in place close to the water access [in Farm Point], it’s easier for us to go ahead and [develop],” explained the animator, Roxanne Laframboise-Larose. “We already have a bathroom in the community centre and at the [nearby] park, so it’s just easier to develop in Farm Point,” she continued. However, she also explained that the location for this project is not set in stone.
She said the municipality would like to complete the first phase of construction by 2023 or 2024, but did not clarify what that first phase would entail. Based on the feedback retrieved from the consultation, the architectural firm will come up with a detailed sketch for plans in the coming months and present them to council for further discussion.