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Chelsea has a lot of walking to do

August 2nd,2023 | Opinion

Chelsea sure knows how to talk the talk.

Just a month ago, Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard unveiled his municipality’s flashy new strategic plan, with a heavy emphasis on “environmental awareness.”

It was at this unveiling that he told the Low Down that, “Chelsea has been a long-time leader in terms of environmental impact” and that “our environmental plans are currently amidst some of the best plans in the province.”

If trapping endangered turtles in a pond, improperly planting trees near the river and deforesting an entire shoreline is “the best plans in the province,” then we are all doomed.

Speak with any Farm Point resident these days and they’ll tell you how “heartbreaking” it is to watch their idyllic little enclave get ripped to shreds. Resident Jessica Tapp’s home has been violated by Chelsea multiple times, after it ripped out her old-growth cedar hedge and then proceeded to build a crosswalk near her property, effectively inviting Chelsea trail users to cross her driveway on their bikes, blades and Birkenstocks.

In May, the municipality went against recommendations from Friends of the Gatineau River (FOG) and Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment (ACRE), when it installed cloth barriers around a Farm Point pond, where a bale of painted and snapping turtles was nesting. Both FOG and ACRE sounded the alarm, arguing that the cloth barrier would prevent the turtles, which are a species of special concern, from entering the Gatineau River. The municipality didn’t listen, and when turtle crusaders in Farm Point ripped the barricades down, Chelsea played the victim card and called the wildlife heroes “vandals.”

A month later in late June, the municipality again ignored advice from FOG, when it installed trees and shrubs at the end of Burnett Road as a shoreline stabilization measure. The trees were improperly planted with the rootballs still exposed to the elements. A few days later, heavy rain had washed out many of the trees and the topsoil dumped there — exactly as FOG had warned.

And just last week, Farm Point residents were shocked to wake up and see their shoreline decimated. Chelsea said it only cut four trees down during Phase 1 of the Chemin de la Rivière rehabilitation project, but staffers ripped out all the vegetation along the shoreline for about 400 metres and replaced it with white stonework. FOG argues that natural shorelines with root systems are far better for stabilization than stone, but Chelsea didn’t consult with FOG before ripping apart the shoreline.

What was that you said at the June meeting, Mr. Mayor? Something about “environmental awareness?”

The only thing residents are now aware of is how environmentally unfriendly Chelsea is becoming.

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