Thank you for covering our efforts to seek equitable and sustainable water access in Farm Point in particular. Unfortunately, the article entitled, “Farm Point group opposes public docks” (March 24 edition of The Low Down), misrepresents our position. Our group, consisting primarily of residents with properties on roads off Chemin de la Rivière, first petitioned council last August for the right to apply for dock permits for our road community docks that have been in the [Gatineau] River for decades. Our petition, which garnished 56 signatures (representing 118 residents), did not reject public access to the river. In our view, current road community docks in Farm Point are compatible with well-managed public access to the river.
Road community docks along the Chemin de la Rivière serve anywhere between two to 29 households and reduce pressure on the present community dock and possible future public dock at Farm Point. Disbursed access points will be particularly important during the time of a pandemic. Few epidemiologists predict that COVID-19 will be eradicated any time soon. Were there only one dock in Farm Point, the higher density use would be difficult to manage under normal circumstances and downright unsafe during a lingering pandemic.
More recently, a broader Ward 5-led group submitted a second petition to council in response to the public consultation on public access to the Gatineau River. The document, signed by 80 residents, recommends:
the establishment of a grid of objective criteria against which possible river access points could be rated objectively and transparently;
environmental impact assessment of any public river access;
an incremental trial, evaluate, and tweak approach to creating new river access points;
dedicated bylaw officers’ time to ensure rules regarding dock usage, capacity, and parking allotments;
exclusive use of some soft touch access points along the Voie Verte [trail] to Chelsea residents via a pass system, as has been done successfully in other communities;
retention of the current Farm Point community dock and possible move to a nearby location (if a public access point is created at Farm Point park);
the provision of neighbourhood-sized outdoor swimming pools and splash pads (not a super costly, indoor, Olympic-size, suburban swimming pool at the Meredith Centre) to provide a viable alternative to river swimming, especially for families with younger children.
We have asked that the promised Feasibility Study will consider these proposals along with the many other good ideas that neighbours have submitted to the online consultation. We have also recommended and hope that the community be given the opportunity to express itself on the final approach before it is voted on by council.
Tineke Kuijper is a lawyer and community organizer in Farm Point working with neighbours to increase protection of the river and local wetland environment in the context of existing and proposed river usage and development.