Community rallies again to save the Dêschenes Rapids Ruins
Lynne Rodier, PhD Candidate in Social Museology and Regional Heritage Studies at UQO and administrator for the Deschênes Residents' Association, wrote an open letter demanding that the ruins of the old mill in the Deschênes Rapids not be demolished.
In the letter, Rodier is asking for the Deschênes park to be designated a heritage site, as well as for the area to be officially assigned the name “Deschênes Park” by the Quebec government and the City of Gatineau. This is something the Deschênes Residents' Association and l’Association du patrimoine d’Aylmer have been working on since 2013.
“It makes absolutely no sense, financially or ecologically, to take down the ruins,” said Howard Powell, President of the Deschênes Residents' Association. “They should be thinking about preserving the green spaces here.”
Howard notes that, if safety is the main concern, there are other solutions like reinforcing the riverbanks to prevent erosion, putting up fences, or barriers of some kind.
In 2015, the Ministère de Transport de Québec (MTQ) proposed various solutions regarding the ruins and the safety of residents, one of which was demolition. The discussions have been ongoing for many years, with various opinions on the safety and value of the site. Currently the MTQ owns the ruins. The community is also calling for them to take care of their property as well as to preserve its heritage.
“Demolishing the ruins does not only destroy the heritage of the area but also comes with a large environmental risk,” said Rodier, when contacted by the Bulletin. “It would have an effect on the river, which is already designated heritage.” Rodier noted that any danger that the ruins may bring is the responsibility of the MTQ, as the owner of the area. They are in charge of making sure the area is safe.
Throughout the years, there have been drownings in the area but many of these incidents were the result of the rapids that span the width of the river. In recent years, most have occurred in the rapids on the Ottawa side, far from the ruins.
After the letter was released, many organizations, community associations, and individuals spoke up to support the efforts to preserve the heritage of the area, such as Gilles Laroche, President of the Auberge Symmes Museum, and Michel Prévost, President of the Outaouais History Society. “Tourists, architects, photographers, residents, and environmentalists gather to observe the ruins, as they are an important part of the area,” said Rodier.
Photo: 2015 Bulletin d’Aylmer archives, Hugh Godman