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Blocked dock couple fear clock is running out

April 12th,2024 | Municipal News

Last fall, Chelsea replaced a five year old guardrail along River Road and replaced it with a continuous guardrail, blocking residents from their dock. The municipality will not confirm that it plans to open the guardrail at no cost to the residents. Photo: Madeline Kerr

Chelsea will not confirm that it plans to open the continuous guardrails along River Road so that residents can access their docks, despite written assurance that it would be done this spring. 

Barb Shaw and her partner Doug Emmons say they have received three written communications from the municipality assuring them that the guardrail, which was installed during construction on River Road last fall, would be fitted with openings enabling the couple and their neighbours to access their private docks. 

In an email obtained by the Low Down, Farm Point Coun. Rita Jain forwarded correspondence from Chelsea’s director-general, Sheena Ngalle Miano, who stated on Nov. 20, 2023, that “there will be no cost to residents.” Originally the municipality said that openings in the guardrail would cost residents $6,000 per opening. 

Jain told the Low Down last fall: “I distributed an email that I received from the director-general indicating the openings would be installed free of charge…. When the guardrails started going up, I was told the openings would happen later.” 

In a statement to the Low Down on April 5, Jain said “I will continue to work with the council and administration to ensure we follow through with this promise.” 

However, at a council meeting on April 2, Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard told Shaw that council still hadn’t decided on how to proceed with the guardrail. He added that the director-general, members of council and municipal staff would meet with an expert at the end of the month to discuss the situation. 

“So, although we have received assurances three times in the past year that the openings will be made at no cost to us, you’re now telling me that there has been no decision?” an incredulous Shaw asked the mayor during the meeting. 

“We are currently working on the file, and when we have a decision, we will communicate that to you,” Guénard responded. 

In the past, the municipality has said that replacing the former guardrail, which included openings in front of private docks, was about safety, arguing that there was a small chance cars could go into the river at these openings. 

Resident Tineke Kuijper told the Low Down that, to the best of her neighbourhoods’ collective memory, there have been virtually no serious accidents due to openings in the guardrails in the road’s history. 

“The risk assessment does not justify replacing the guardrail,” she said. 

According to the municipality, a continuous guardrail was installed in 2018 for safety reasons. Then, after plans for the road stabilization project were being completed, engineers called for a new, continuous guardrail, according to Guénard, which was installed in 2023.

Seniors’ quality of life impacted

Rachel Gervais also spoke at the April 2 meeting on behalf of her parents, Rheal and Huguette Gervais, who have lived in Farm Point for most of their lives and enjoyed access to the river for 65 years. Rheal is now 92, his daughter explained, and Huguette is 89; the couple will not be able to easily and safely access their privately owned dock if the guardrail stays in place. 

“This is about their quality of life,” Gervais told the Low Down after the meeting. She explained that her entire family, many of whom still live near the river in Farm Point, have been getting together on her parents’ dock every summer since log driving on the river ended 40 years ago. 

Gervais said that when the guardrails were installed, “the municipality said that in April 2024 they would open the guardrail. So last year, my parents, being good people, said ‘Ok, no problem, we can wait for a year. This is all for the best – [the municipality] is making improvements to the road and the Voie Verte, and we can be patient,’ but now they are going to have to wait even [longer]…and time is not elastic for everyone. My parents are 92 and 89. They have been having family gatherings on their dock all their lives, but now they can’t do that anymore.” 

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