• Trevor Greenway

Wakefield no longer weird

Whatever happened to keeping Wakefield weird?

All these municipal rules around swimming, Canada Day and garage sales are killing the vibe Wakefield has always been known for.

The village has always carried this rough-and-tumble spirit — a place where misfits could fit in; where artists could be their weird selves; where it didn’t matter if you had egg yolk on your shirt, as long as you could shred on the guitar; a place where teenagers could freely jump off the covered bridge and not worry about cops busting up their swim rock party; and a place where young revellers would stay up all night in Alcove to construct the most epic Canada Day raft that would float down the Gatineau River just as the patriotic parade was cruising by.

Sadly, many things that made Wakefield eclectic and quirky have been turfed by cops and the municipality — and the result is a village struggling to find its new identity.

The loss of swimming at the Wakefield covered bridge certainly stings, but it’s understandable. Two people have died swimming at the infamous swimming rocks since 2015, and a coroner’s report into the 2021 drowning death of a 22-year-old foreign exchange student recommended banning swimming at the dangerous spot. Those who continue to jump and swim could face a $350 and $500 fine, respectively.

We understand, but it still sucks.

Longtime Wakefielders may remember the heartbreak of watching municipal workers rip apart the very last Wakefield raft with a chainsaw years ago in front of the Wakefield General Store — and the handful of cops waiting on shore to bust the builders on Canada Day. That really killed the spirit of the raft. It hasn’t returned since.

And if the municipality wants to play fun killer, they’re doing it well with their new garage/yard sale bylaw that prohibits residents from holding household sales whenever they like. The new rules stipulate that residents can now only have garage sales on the first weekend of every month and those who disobey could see a $500 to $1,000 fine.

To be fair, La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux assured this newspaper that bylaw officers won’t be on the hunt for garage sale rebels and explained that the rules are really to target long-term household sales that go on all season. He added that the municipality gets consistent complaints about these long-term garage sales every summer.

But the problem is, with the new bylaw, they will be getting even more complaints from residents who just don’t want their neighbours to have a garage sale when it’s not convenient for them. If a resident complains, bylaw will show up and the offender will likely get a warning on a first offence; fines will come later.

People used to choose to live in Wakefield because it was so free. It was weird, wacky and a little off the pace of typical small towns.

You can bet that if the late, great Louis Rompré was still around, the former councillor and unofficial mayor of Wakefield would have somehow saved swimming and jumping at the bridge; he would have held the biggest garage sale ever — on a Monday; and you would probably still see his golden moustache and ponytail bobbing along in front of the Wakefield raft on his “canoemaran” on Canada Day, steering it safely into the village party.

He would have kept Wakefield weird.