La Pêche's 2023 budget announcement to link the Voie Verte in Chelsea with Low's Véloroute des Draveurs is a boon for the municipality, given that it’s a green project that will be financially beneficial for the local economy — though I imagine some are already poised to press “send” on a social media post to the contrary.
Detractors will cite cost, noise, increased traffic in the village, safety, whether or not the train tracks will be removed in parts, and other issues — all of which Chelsea has been dealing with for years since the construction of their Voie Verte walking trail.
Or is it a cycling trail?
That's something Chelseaites have been wrangling over for years and that Wakefielders will now get lassoed into. Those using the trail to enjoy picturesque walks, such as the elderly, complain they are terrified by spandex-clad cyclists treating the trail like their own personal velodrome.
Cyclists, on the other hand, complain that walkers meander all over the paths in great groups, oblivious to the fact that they're blocking the path for others, while some continue to allow their dogs to roam off-leash, spooking cyclists and biting passersby.
What about the NIMBY (not in my back yard) argument, which has been such a hot button topic for years in Chelsea? Related to the NIMBY argument is noise. Complaints have resulted in the erection of “Shh” signs along parts of the Voie Verte. As someone who lives along the noisy 366, I can’t muster much sympathy and wonder if this is truly a legitimate argument — for both Chelsea and Wakefield.
Trail width has also been an issue in Chelsea. La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux recently stated that news of the trail has been “well received” by those residents bordering it, though he noted they favour a narrower trail than Voie Verte, which does seem wide enough to drive a stretch limo down.
How about plans to rip up our locomotive history? The mayor has already stated that train tracks in the village, which pass very close to the river, won’t be disturbed.
What about the cost? Can La Pêche afford the $2-million-plus amount over the next three years for this project? Can we afford not to?
Wakefield's key asset is its proximity to nature and its historic village. It is a tourist destination and businesses depend on those ambulators and spandex-clad speed-demons. This trail is an investment in green tourism. While it won't likely generate the $10 million which the steam train once brought to the region, it could still be extremely beneficial to our local economy.
In recent correspondence with the mayor, he compared Wakefield to Mont-Laurier in Quebec with regard to their Le P’tit du Nord trail — a 234-km trail in the Laurentians. According to the last survey conducted by Chaire de Tourisme Transat for 2016-17, that trail generated $18 million in revenue purely from cyclists. While not a perfect comparison, it does give us an idea of how profitable these trails can be.
And profitability matters because it strikes me that most Wakefielders want a more green economy – not another styrofoam-producing factory – and the walking/cycling trail is exactly that.
Keep that in mind before you press “send” on an angry post to Wakefield Folks about the new trail.