This past Saturday, I got to try out Chelsea’s brand new, still-under-construction community trail. I have to say — it’s pretty fantastic. What a showcase for the glorious Gatineau Hills; it’s a reminder of just how incredibly lucky we are to live in what has to be the best place in the country. Who knew Chelsea’s most contentious, most controversial project in recent history could be so pleasant? (Insert knowing wink here.)
We put our bikes on the car and started from the Farm Point skate rink — another new addition looking fresh and inviting. I still miss the steam train dearly, but admittedly this new trail is a major plus for the Gatineau Hills. It’s a boon to families who want to cycle together; seniors who need a flat, even surface for a stroll; walkers and joggers of all ages; dog owners; Chelsea kids who want to visit their friends nearby without having to beg for a car ride from the ‘rents; the list goes on.
Even though it’s still not completed, it’s already very popular.
Maybe it was the deprivation of social interaction, but seeing familiar locals and stopping for a chat with neighbours really felt like a tonic for the soul. Just as advertised, it really is a way for the community to connect. That said, judging by the traffic, there is no doubt that the trail has already – already! – been discovered by visitors. What can you expect after the confluence of three important events: a pandemic that has city folk seeking outdoor escapes, the last weekend of fall colours and Voie Verte’s Sandy Foote announcing a brand new riverside trail to CBC Ottawa radio listeners just that morning.
In our mere two hours on the trail, we witnessed a handful of the predicted challenges this new trail brings. We didn’t pay much attention when the boys dropped their bikes and ran into the forest to check out a stream — we received a prompt and terse warning from the owner that they were on “her property – even the stream.” We also witnessed two Lance Armstrong-wannabes in matching black spandex, who would definitely have knocked us flat if we didn’t get out of their way of their speeding road bikes. And I personally ruined a family’s quiet memorial for a loved one on their private dock when I yelled out: “Hey Aden! Hey! Hiya! It’s us! On the new trail!”
There are other issues we did not personally witness that day, but those of you brave enough to wade into the toxic cesspool commonly known as Chelsea Folks can check out the other predictable problems: complaints about motorized vehicles, a reported Subaru using it for a sightseeing drive, lack of bathrooms and who would scoop what, etc.
The trail may not be done, but the issues are there; Chelsea has got to sort them out and fast. Because ready or not, here we come.