• Hunter Cresswell

Swim spot votes, comments at odds

Parking, privacy, parties a concern


The municipality of Chelsea will be hard pressed to pick which of the proposed swim spots to open as public access points to the Gatineau River.


So far, in the section of the online public consultation dedicated to swimming areas, there have been 1,440 responses. When presented with five different swim spot locations – near the Chelsea Smokehouse between Peter’s Point and Gleneagle, near Ch. Carnochan, Ch. Carman, and the community centre in Farm Point, and near the intersection of Kirk’s Ferry Road and the community trail – the majority of people responded with, “totally agree.”


The municipality of Chelsea put forth this waterfront near Farm Paint Park as one possible public river access point in an online consultation. Hunter Cresswell photo
The municipality of Chelsea put forth this waterfront near Farm Paint Park as one possible public river access point in an online consultation. Hunter Cresswell photo

Surprisingly, no locations were overwhelmingly rejected with a majority of “totally disagree” responses.


While the majority of votes so far are in support of public swimming areas at these five sites – though which of these sites will be chosen and how many remains undetermined – a scroll through the comments left by voters paints another picture.


Chelsea should learn from Wakefield’s issues of illegal parking, littering, high-usage by non-locals, noise and more at its swim spots, wrote Doug Taylor on the consultation.


“Most of the sites in Chelsea will have similar problems; why would it be otherwise? The proposed sites at Carnochan, Carman and Kirk's Ferry are all accessible from roads, but have no parking, so people will drive to these sites, park illegally and some will make a full day and evening of it. After Chemin de la Riviere is repaired in 2021 there will be hundreds of road cyclists visiting from the city, in addition to community trail users — all wanting a swim,” he wrote.


Another Chelsea resident, Andy Ball, seems to agree with Taylor.


“Personally, I think it is good public policy for Chelsea to offer waterfront access to its residents, but this access needs to be tightly regulated and controlled, so we do not end up with the same issues that Wakefield and some of the illegal access points experienced this summer. Access should be done at locations that minimize impact to the neighbours and should be limited to residents and their guests,” Ball wrote. He added that “resident cards” could be issued to ensure mostly local use.


This is only one of three online public consultations covering river access in Chelsea. Two others ask for opinions on where an official, public boat launch and docks should be.


The majority of voters so far agree with the municipality building public docks in Farm Point, near the Chelsea Smokehouse or near Kirk’s Ferry.


Half of the 166 voters “totally agree” that there should be an official boat launch in Farm Point. But contradictory proposals from citizens have popped up in this category.


One states that there should be at least two boat launches with plenty of parking and a fee of no more than $15 to pay the salary of an attendant. Almost 60 per cent of the voters so far said they “totally disagree” with this idea though. Another asks for a moratorium on all river access changes – boat launches and swim spots – for three years, while another asks for infrastructure to be built to better enable non-motorized boat launching.


Public access to the Gatineau River is the subject of a public consultation because of the municipality of Chelsea’s $47,426 purchase of 1.89 million square metres of Gatineau River waterfront property, which was approved in early 2020. A public consultation on the purchase took place in February 2020 and packed a room in the Meredith Centre.


To take part in this consultation, visit chelsea.cocoriko.org through Feb. 18 and/or reach out to your councillor.