Deschênes ruins to be demolished, preservation advocates continue their efforts
Many Aylmer residents were saddened by the October 6th announcement by the Minister responsible for the Outaouais region and Minister of Culture and Communications, Mathieu Lacombe, that the Deschênes hydro dam ruins are to be demolished. The ruins, owned by the Ministère des Transports et de la Mobilité durable du Québec, are the last remnants of a 19th century hydro dam.
Last May, after the ministry launched their call for tenders for the demolition. Lacombe called for a re-evaluation of the ruins' historical and heritage value. Despite this analysis, an announcement was made that due to safety reasons and inaccessibility the ruins would be demolished.
Caroline Murray, Councillor for Deschênes, says she will continue to advocate for the preservation. Notably, last May, Murray filed a petition with the National Assembly asking Quebec to preserve the site, recognize its heritage value and consider the environmental impacts of the demolition.
“I am disappointed with this announcement. I don’t think the reasons for the demolition of the ruins are justifiable,” Murray told the Aylmer Bulletin. “Even with the ruins demolished, the site will still have rapids that are equally dangerous.”
Murray says she has asked the Ministry for their heritage evaluation, in order to see what evaluation criteria were used. Additionally, the councillor is inquiring about the recorded number of dangerous incidents that have occurred at the site.
Lynne Rodier, a doctoral candidate in social museology and regional heritage studies at the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) and an advocate for the preservation of the ruins, has also put into question the validity of demolition on the count of ‘safety’.
“I am very disappointed; this announcement brings more questions than answers as we don’t have the results of the Heritage analysis,” said Rodier. “From our understanding, there have been few accidents that have taken place at the ruins. More often we see accidents with the rapids on the other side of the river. We understand that it’s dangerous, but we think there are other options to make the site more safe. We are discouraged but we will keep working to safeguard the ruins.”
Murray also said she will be submitting a resolution to the city council at the upcoming municipal council meeting on October 17, to support the preservation of the ruins. Murray says she hopes that, if passed, this resolution of support will send a message to Quebec that the ruins are an important part of Aylmer heritage.
Rodier says she encourages residents to write to Minister Lacombe as well as the Ministry of transportation to ask questions and voice their dissatisfaction with the decision to demolish the Dêschene ruins.
Photo caption: Dêschene ruins, set to be demolished.
Photo credit: Sophie Demers