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  • Nikki Mantell

Watering holes at boiling point

It’s not just Wakefield and Chelsea’s Church Road neighbours that are feeling overwhelmed by the influx of rule-flaunting visitors ‘from away’ at a time when we all need to be social distancing. With flights cancelled, the Quebec government is actively encouraging us all to “staycation” close to home during this pandemic. It’s no surprise that this message, combined with a serious case of cabin fever (or rather, condo fever) after being cooped up for months, is creating a situation where urbanites are jumping into their cars and flocking to small, picturesque places like the Gatineau Hills, which offer access to the beautiful outdoors and less COVID-risky fresh air.

But as we can see by the front page stories in this edition, that influx of visitors is taking its toll on small towns here, and across the province. The Montreal Gazette reported this week that the Quebec town of Rawdon completely closed its popular beaches and waterfalls to outsiders after being overrun by urbanites trying to escape the heat wave. “Overwhelming a place, crowding on beaches or in parks, leaving litter behind and failing to socially distance is boorish and rude” one of their columnists points out.

We couldn’t agree more — and the tension is reaching a boiling point, especially in the Wakefield bay. But tourism is the number one industry in our particular region, including Wakefield and Chelsea; it’s what keeps most local businesses going, and so shutting everything down isn’t an option.

We checked in with Wakefield La Pêche Chamber’s president Shelley Crabtree, who had some excellent ideas for the village as it copes with Dockapalooza — ideas that Chelsea should also consider as it readies to open its community trail’s river access points. After all, it’s not like the region’s popularity, or the virus, are going away in the next 18 months.

Parking – Why not