The tourists are coming, again!
Q&A with La Pêche mayor about what may lie ahead
The summer of 2020 was one of the busiest, rowdiest summers in the Outaouais in recent memory, especially in places like La Pêche where young, sometimes intoxicated visitors pestered and aggravated residents almost every weekend.
With the start of spring, The Low Down asked La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux to look ahead at some of the challenges and changes facing the municipality for the upcoming tourist season:
LD: The garbage cans along Wakefield’s main streets/pathways seem to fill up very quickly, and quite often — even this winter. Has the municipality put any thought into increasing the frequency that it empties garbage cans or about increasing their numbers for this summer?
GL: Yes. We increased both the frequency of pick-up and the amount of garbage cans last year, mid-season, which generally hit the target. We will continue to improve the situation this summer. I now recognize that we need to improve the service in the winter as well.
LD: Is there any planning or any consultation with the National Capital Commission regarding Gatineau Park to address the crowds? Many residents and businesses expect this summer to be one the busiest.
GL: No, but we would be open to, if needed. Last year the NCC limited the number of people allowed access to their parking lots, and closed park entrances when they were full, for example at Lac Philippe.
LD: Lack of parking is a problem, and some years ago, a parking task force suggested several solutions that were presented to the council, including paid parking and shuttles from the Centre Wakefield La Pêche community centre parking lot. Does the municipality have any plans to address parking issues this summer?
GL: This is a problem that we are addressing progressively. The municipality is collaborating and investing on Sentier Wakefield’s project to link the community centre to Riverside via Louis-Rompré Park, one of the recommendations of the task force’s report. Countless times last year, the parking lot at the centre was almost empty during peak visiting hours. This should alleviate some of the issues. Otherwise, we are working with the MRC Police to improve signage and surveillance in places where there really should not be parking due to safety issues — more details following the March 24 or 31 meeting [with police]. We will evaluate the measures as they are implemented and consider additional initiatives as warranted.
LD: There have been suggestions on social media about closing Chemin Riverside to traffic on weekends. Is this a possible solution? Could other side roads be closed to help stop visitors from parking along those roads instead?
GL: The pandemic is putting a lot of pressure on some of our local businesses. I have yet to receive a single request from a local business owner to even consider this possibility, which to me suggests that they don’t see it as a viable solution. If our business owners are willing to try it, they should let us know, but I don’t think we should impose this on them right now. In the meantime, Wakefield has a good network of trails and sidewalks on which our community has invested millions of dollars over the years.
LD: Lack of bathrooms is also a problem, which creates instances of public urination and worse. Does the municipality plan on addressing this issue?
GL: The situation could be improved in the winter, but there are otherwise enough public bathrooms, as it is for the decent people who come to our town. I heard of public urination and worse occurring not 200 metres from a public bathroom. There is only so much to do to cater to the ‘needs’ of people who think it is ok not to use them just to avoid a short walk.
LD: Will there be more increased police presence? Even though restrictions could be lessened, the issue of public intoxication and trespassing will still be an issue.
GL: Police presence was appropriate last year and will be again this summer. Let’s not amplify and generalize through media and social media what amounts to exceptional events. As reported in national media, MRC des Collines is among the safest places in Canada.
Support for businesses
LD: Will there be any property tax breaks or extra municipal support for businesses that were forced to shut down over the past year?
GL: At the municipal level, we are not considering additional measures on top of the ones we already used. We are also not getting any requests to this effect. The MRC is managing the emergency funds very well. To me, this suggests that the provincial and federal measures are working.
LD: La Pêche is a tourist destination. Were there any positives that came out of last summer's increased numbers?
GL: Of course, and it’s true throughout Canada. I much prefer seeing Canadians flocking to their respective regional destinations and encouraging their local economies than flying abroad or driving to the states. The same applies to local food systems. If you can afford tourism, you can also afford to support your local farmers and businesses, so please do — every bit of it makes a difference.