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  • Madeline Kerr

Measuring contributions to Chelsea Foundation land

Hundreds of families, thousands of hours, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

These numbers represents just a slice of the community’s contributions to securing, building and maintaining the 20 acres of recreational land in the centre of Chelsea village, owned and operated by the Chelsea Foundation, according to its president, Fiona Duguid.

On Oct. 30, Chelsea council voted to move ahead with plans to try and acquire part of that land in order to build a new French-language elementary school, which the municipality and the local school service centre say is imminently needed.

One of The Chelsea Foundation’s first acts after its creation in the mid-1990s was to raise money and purchase a plot of land in Old Chelsea from Elizabeth Meredith, who hoped it would remain a recreational green space to be used by the community. The Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization that seeks to promote sport, culture and leisure, as well as foster a sense of community in the municipality.

After buying the land, Duguid said, “over $600,000 was fundraised from the community to cover land transfer costs, road development and field development. The in-kind donations of heavy equipment, landscaping expertise, project management and materials were also essential, along with the thousands of hours of sweat-equity provided by community members to literally break ground for the soccer fields to be developed.”

All of which contributed to the creation of a recreational hub that Chelsea families have been able to enjoy for the past 20 years.

“Every child in Chelsea has played on these fields with parents and grandparents coaching, cheering and playing too,” Duguid said. “In essence, it is an example of the community coming together for a common cause.”

Using registration data from 1998 to 2019, Duguid estimated that an average of 556 Soccer Chelsea players use the Foundation’s fields from May to September each year. This number does not include summer camps, tournaments or any other events held on the fields, she explained.

Besides this, Duguid listed a number of other uses of the fields on a regular basis, including: gym classes; orienteering; track and field meets and other special events by students at Chelsea Elementary and Chelsea Montessori; adult recreational soccer in the summer; and Vibrant Ultimate frisbee games from May through October each year.

Duguid said that the Foundation first heard about the municipality’s desire to acquire part of the land – specifically one of its soccer fields – on Aug. 16, 2023. On Sept. 6 the municipality informed the Foundation that it wanted to acquire approximately four acres of its 20 acres of land.

In an email to the Low Down, Chelsea municipal spokesperson Maude Prud’homme-Séguin explained that, “Very early on in the process, the municipality offered to relocate the soccer field, at its own expense, on one of its properties, in order to reach a win/win agreement, which the Foundation refused.”

At the council meeting on Oct. 30, Mayor Pierre Guénard explained that the municipality was asked to provide the local French school service centre (CSSPO) with a list of all lots in the urban perimeter with a surface area of over 25,000 square metres serviced by a water system.

He explained that the municipality made it clear they favoured other sites for the school building, including behind La Fab sur Mill on Mill Road, but this suggestion was rejected by CSSPO based on a lengthy list of criteria it uses to determine suitable sites for future schools.

Some residents at the meeting implored council to push back against CSSPO’s decision, but Mayor Guénard and several councillors made it clear they feel their hands are tied.

“We have to consider both the Foundation’s needs and those of the population,” Prud’homme-Séguin later explained. “This school will enable 300 students a year to continue their education in a modern school on Chelsea territory.”

On Oct. 30, the council voted to enlist the services of RPGL Lawyers in Gatineau to move ahead with acquiring the land.

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