• Hunter Cresswell

Forest fundraiser fulfilled

Chelsea community raises $850K to protect land

Chelsea residents officially put their money where their mouths are

A grassroots effort that started in August, which began as 10 neighbours talking about protecting a beloved forest nearby, didn’t let an $850,000 price tag daunt them. They partnered with Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment, or ACRE, got to work and are now celebrating their fundraising success.

(From left) Stephen Woodley, Carolyn Farquhar and Lyne Daigle raise their hands in celebration (while Woodley’s mini-Australian shepherd, Leo, roots around at his feet) as they stand on a frozen beaver pond within the 57-acre Chelsea forest property, which they helped purchase through a community grassroots effort and fundraiser. Hunter Cresswell photo

ACRE treasurer and purchase organizer Carolyn Farquhar said she hopes this success story will not only inspire people to purchase other undeveloped lands for conservation, but will send a message to elected officials about the values of Chelsea residents.

“One hundred and eighty households have supported this [fundraiser] and in that there’s 180 reasons this land is so meaningful to each of them,” she said.

To Farquhar, who lives on the border of the 57-acre property, which runs along the east side of Hwy 5 from near École Grand-Boisé to the wetlands near the Musie Loop neighbourhood, it’s a peaceful place to walk or just sit in solitude looking out over one of the many beaver ponds.

“It’s a beautiful forest,” she said. “As a self-contained piece of land, it is very restorative and a very pretty place to be.”

Farquhar’s fellow community organizer in this effort, Lyne Daigle, said that she too loves the beauty and solitude she finds amongst nature in the forest.

“I walk here everyday. I walked 1,500 kilometres just on these trails last year and everyday it’s different,” she said. “[The property is] not so big, but when you are in it there’s no limit to the woods.”

The land is ecologically significant because it’s undeveloped save for some footpaths, contains wetlands and – sitting just across Hwy 5 from Gatineau Park – serves as an ecological corridor for wildlife traveling to and from the park, according to ACRE president and ecologist Stephen Woodley.

This will be the biggest property added to the ACRE land trust to-date — it’s larger than all of ACRE’s other lands combined.

“This is a huge leap forward for us as a land trust,” Woodley said.

The Chelsea council during its regular February meeting unanimously voted to contribute $20,000 from its municipal green fund to pay for the land-transfer tax and other administrative costs associated with the transaction.

Even Pontiac MP Will Amos donated to the fundraiser.

“People, myself included, are putting their money where their mouth is,” he said in a recent phone interview. “It tells you exactly where the values of this community are.”

The sale will be finalized in the coming weeks and then it will be legally owned by ACRE, which will serve as a land trust. Then the real work begins, Farquhar said.

“We plan to have a citizen stewardship committee,” she added, explaining that the committee will ensure the preservation of the forest for continued, non-motorized, light recreational use and as a wildlife habitat.

Search Forêt Chelsea Forest on Facebook for more information or to give input on what the forest should be named.

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