By Stuart Benson
The new Louis Rompré Park, located behind Kaffe 1870 in Wakefield, is on it’s way to completion after volunteers spent May 2, and most of that weekend, laying out a path and preparing flower beds, all while maintaining social distancing.
Nick Appleby, the park’s project manager and local carpenter, started working on the park in May 2019, after having lunch with La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux, who suggested he take the lead on it.
“The municipality hadn't done much about it other than the plan they had with the contractor to build the culvert,” Appleby said. After years of sometimes dangerous flooding, the municipality expropriated a residence and installed a large culvert that diverts water to the Gatineau River.
Previously, councillor Claude Giroux had passed a motion during his first mandate to change the name of what had previously been known as “Mr. Cutter’s property” to Louis Rompré Park to honour his predecessor on the council.
Rompré, who was 59 when he died of cancer in Aug. 2016, was a musician, candle maker, politician, father, and friend to so many in Wakefield, whose presence was felt all over, whether it was helping curate the Kaffe 1870 open mic show, touring the Gatineau at sunset in his “canoe-amaran”, or stomping the night away at his twin sons' epic birthday parties, Romprestomp.
“Louis was a very well-liked figure in the community,” Giroux explained. “When the opportunity came up for me to honour him in creating this park, it was simple, but then people just grabbed on to it and ran with it themselves.”
“This is all volunteers doing this; other than the municipality giving its blessing, it is not materially involved,” Giroux added.
It was after Appleby’s lunch with the mayor when he, along with Shelley Crabtree, Shawn and Chris Rompré and their mother and Louis Rompré’s former wife, Michelle Woodard (who designed the park’s logo), and Steve Armstrong, a local landscape architect who drew up the park’s current concept design, began organizing community volunteers to raise the funds for the park and get the work done.
“We’ve done quite a bit of work,” Appleby said. “Fourteen thousand dollars has been raised by the community — not one penny of municipal money.”
According to Crabtree, nearly half of that $14,000 – $6,850.24 to be exact – was raised at a fundraiser concert and silent auction held at the Black Sheep on Oct. 19, 2019. The money was raised through ticket sales donated by Paul Symes of the Black Sheep, cash donations and sales from the silent auction, which brought the to-date fundraising to $13,475.24.
“It's really cool to see it coming to fruition,” said Crabtree. “There has been a tremendous amount of work, locally, in raising this money, and many volunteer hours put in for the design concept and working at the park.”
On top of the work done to lay out a pathway in the park and segmenting dirt for future flower beds, the volunteers also built a Pétanque court — a game similar to bocce, except the metal balls are tossed rather than bowled.
“Louis Rompré was a big fan of that game, so am I and a lot of other people,” said Appleby. “We're hoping to have some fun there and make it a gathering place.”
Shawn Rompré, Louis’ adult son, who currently lives in Toronto with his children, has been involved with the project, along with his brother Chris who currently lives in Cambodia, but said he is incredibly grateful to the community for all of the work they have done to honour their father.
“At first, I thought Chris and I were gonna have to spearhead this and do every detail,” said Shawn, “but there have been so many people who have decided to take that responsibility on themselves and it's been really amazing.”
Shawn said that he sees the community effort as a reflection on his dad’s impact on the community, saying it’s not just his wife and children who want to honour his memory, the entire community does.
“I wish I could give you a list of every name that has been involved, there's just so many people who have been involved in small and big ways that it's impossible. I've told them in person many times, but I hope they all know how much I appreciate it,” Shawn said. “I'm very excited to sit in a park with my dad's memory all around me.”
The Louis Rompré Park committee has one more big day of work planned over the May long weekend moving dirt and hopefully doing some planting. They also plan to build a path connecting the Wakefield and La Péche Community Centre and the park, so that visitors can park their car at the centre and walk into town without having to use Chemin de la Vallée.