For a municipality that is talking a lot about increasing water access for residents, it’s surprising to see Chelsea close a local swimming hole and unofficial boat launch at the end of Burnett Road.
Last fall, residents noticed two giant concrete barriers show up at the end of Burnett Road, blocking water access for those looking to take kayaks and canoes down to the water. On June 16, the municipality removed the barriers, added topsoil and planted 23 trees as part of a naturalization project to minimize environmental damage to the shoreline.
According to Chelsea spokesperson Maude Prud'homme Séguin, too many motorists were using the site to launch their motorized boats, which caused issues with nearby residents.
“The large number of motorists using the site to launch boats was damaging both to the environment and to nearby homeowners, as they were often unable to leave their homes because cars were blocking their entrances,” said Prud’homme Séguin.
“This has never been a formal boat launch,” she added. In light of the naturalization elements to Burnett Road, she encouraged boaters to use the only formal boat launch in the municipality, which is located at the Farm Point Community Centre.
Water access has been a hot-button issue in Chelsea over the past few years, most notably in Farm Point, where the municipality has said that community docks will no longer be permitted in the ward and instead will be taken over by the municipality and turned into public docks.
Prud’homme Séguin told The Low Down that the municipality is trying to deter nearby residents from using the Burnett Road access so as to “not to interfere with the naturalization efforts.” However, she did say that users who access it on foot would be “tolerated.”
“Burnett is not an official access point to the river,” she said. “The municipality is currently analyzing various sites in order to eventually open up other access points to the river, but at this stage, no decision has been taken.”
The Low Down reached out to Friends of the Gatineau River for comment, but the organization didn’t return calls by press time.