New non-profit aims to preserve Deschênes’ natural wealth
Wanting to put in place concrete actions to preserve important greenspaces in Deschênes, a trio of local environmentalists officially founded a new non-profit organization with many goals in mind. Titled the Deschênes Park Alliance (APD), the organization envisions promoting the preservation, integrity and eco-responsible development of natural areas located between the Deschênes Rapids and chemin Fraser, to conserve and value its natural and cultural heritage, and to make the area accessible for educational purposes.
Founded by France Gagnon, Lucie Goulet and Deschênes Residents’ Association (ARD) President Howard Powles, the organization’s ultimate goal is to get the area officially designated as a natural urban park. Operating informally to things off the ground since November, the APD was officially approved by the Registraire des entreprises du Québec on December 4. Expecting the legal process to be more complicated than it was, Gagnon said she was delightfully surprised to see everything progress so rapidly - allowing the vision to become reality without too many obstacles. Also thrilled with the progress, Powles said the organization’s creation is another major step towards protecting one of the sector’s most precious pieces of land.
An Aylmer resident for almost 30 years, Gagnon feels dumbfounded that Deschênes’ natural spaces haven’t been more responsibly managed, valued and protected by the city and the provincial government. “Why aren’t there more interpretative panels?” Gagnon said. “Why do people pass through it without even thinking about what’s there from a natural and historical standpoint?”
“It’s a special place for us and we intend to show it to everyone, and our city,” she added. “The city needs to acknowledge the wealth that we have here.”
Having helped mobilize residents to save the Deschênes forest from being sold back in June, Gagnon feels confident that the APD can attract similar levels of support from the community – noting that more than 100 people have already gotten on board. “We have a lot of reasons to believe that people are happy we’re going forward with this,” Gagnon said. “It’s a little bit of an extension to the safeguarding of the Deschênes forest.”
“We’ve attracted [the city’s] attention,” she added. “Now it’s about going down that same stream.” Happy with the level of support so far, the most important thing now is to put in place real actions that will bring positive results. While the city recognizes the Deschênes forest as an area for protection and integration, the APD would like to see it designated as a conservation area with interpretation panels. To ensure all their actions are as ecologically supportive as possible, the APD’s activities will be assisted by local archeologist Manuel Lapensée-Paquette.
One of the most glaring problems for the APD has been illegal waste disposal along rue Lamoureux adjacent to riverside access points – everything from plastic dolls, to pop bottles and cans, and worn-out tires. “Some people consider the area as an open-air dump,” Gagnon said, noting that she regularly goes out and cleans up and has requested the city to do something about it on numerous occasions. “It’s a recurring issue. No one has found any real solution for this, and we’re determined to find it. We’re going to do everything imaginable; we will look at all avenues; but, we need to deal with this.”
She believes that, with legal designation and ramifications for breaking the rules, the waste issue might dissipate and that more people will value the space. Powles added that the organization looks forward to hosting community forest cleanups in the spring. Another big topic that needs to be addressed is invasive plant species developing in the area, which has been neglected for too long, Gagnon said.
Gagnon said another priority is the walking path owned by the Quebec Ministry of Transport that extends from Deschênes to the Boucher Forest. It is the only trail connecting both areas directly. “We want to collaborate with the Boucher Forest Foundation and the city towards engaging in discussions with the Ministry of Transport to ensure that the trail gets officially protected and secured for people to use,” she added.
While the APD desires some development in the park, keeping it as natural as possible while giving people a chance to enjoy what it has to offer is the most important thing. “There will be educational activities,” Gagnon said. “But it’s not going to be a fully renovated park. Maybe a welcome kiosk at the bottom of chemin Vanier, maybe a lookout overlooking the rapids.” Powles also suggested stabilizing the eroding shoreline along the rapids by placing fences.
Along with holding fundraisers to raise money down the road, the organization will be looking to benefit from various subsidies, including the city’s Green Fund. Excited about the organization’s potential, Deschênes district councillor Mike Duggan said he intends to dedicate at $10,000 from his discretionary fund to the APD. Those interested in becoming APD members are encouraged to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and provide their first and last names.
Members will have access to specific information and voting rights, and the APD will occasionally send out newsletters. In the coming months – likely in February – the organization expects to host its first annual general meeting where it will form its inaugural board of directors. The three founders will take on administrative duties until at least then. To support the organization, people can also purchase the APD’s signature 2021 calendar for $26. It is titled A Gift of Nature and has nature photos shot by local photographers.