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  • Liam Fox

Save the forest!

A Chelsea residents’ association is calling on the municipality to protect a “key safe wildlife corridor” in the Meredith Forest from development.


The Ward 2 Residents’ Association launched a petition May 19 to pressure the municipality to withdraw its application to the MRC des Collines to change the zoning of the land located on Hwy 105 between the Boucanerie Chelsea Smokehouse and Chemin Hall. The petition, which had garnered 190 signatures of support by press time, calls on the municipality to withdraw its application to the MRC des Collines to change the zoning of the land in question.


“The Meredith Forest parcel of land serves as a refuge and nesting area for diverse wildlife. It is a key safe wildlife corridor to the river,” said Jacques Michaud, the president of the Ward 2 Residents’ Association, in a press release issued May 19.


According to the residents’ association, the proposed development would be split into

three sections: a residential section, where the landowner would be permitted to deforest and build an estimated 20 houses; a recreational section, including public access to the Gatineau River; and another section protected as a conservation area.


“This project contradicts several of the municipality’s own objectives outlined in its

new master plan, including to protect 30 per cent of Chelsea’s natural environment, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contain development within the urban perimeter to avoid sprawl and habitat destruction,” the residents’ association said in the press release.


The residents’ association board is questioning why Chelsea is not opting to use waterfront land acquired from Hydro-Québec as public water access areas, which the board considers to be “more environmentally-friendly and viable alternatives.”


“The board doesn’t think that the council has adequately demonstrated that this forest for a river access tradeoff is required or in the public interest, when it already has acquired land from Hydro-Québec that could be used for public river access. A

development in this forest would damage and irremediably disrupt this delicate ecological system,” wrote Michaud.


The Ward 2 Residents’ Association’s board is advocating for Chelsea to conduct an analysis of other municipality-owned waterfront lots that could be developed into an inclusive central access point to the Gatineau River for the entire community.


Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard told the Low Down that the proposed development was still in its early stages.


“We don’t have any plans. We don’t have any engineering studies whatsoever at this point,” Guénard said on May 5 in an interview with this newspaper.


Guénard also assured there would not be any “intensive, high-density development” on the land currently zoned for recreation.


In an earlier request for details of the proposal, the Low Down was told by the municipality that the information was not available.

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