The original version of this Op Ed was published in French by Le Droit, on October 2nd, 2018. Below is our own translation of that text.
Imagine a city surrounded by clean and appealing bodies of water, where you can take part in a wide range of outdoor activities. Imagine the joy of relaxing on the water and being rocked by the waves, or admiring the reflection of the sunset on the surface. Imagine all of this, not several hours drive away, but rather a few minutes from home or work. This city with idyllic rivers is your own! It is not surprising that Gatineau has so many fans of aquatic activities: fishing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, rowing, paddle boarding, river surfing, kitesurfing, rafting, swimming, open water swimming, and even scuba diving. For these enthusiasts, but also for those who have yet to participate in these activities due to lack of access, knowledge, or means, Gatineau’s future “Plan de développement du plein air urbain” is the chance to leverage the enormous recreational potential of our lakes and rivers.
One can’t help but welcome Gatineau’s journey towards a plan for outdoor recreation. For many, the outdoors is a major asset – possibly the primary asset – that contributes to quality of life in our region. The plan, which is presently subject to a public consultation process, builds on an ambitious vision that “Gatineau will become a genuine urban outdoor destination in Quebec” and that “a genuine outdoor culture will develop there over time”.
Wanting to become an urban outdoor destination in Quebec is already a great goal. But in considering our magnificent bodies of water, nothing is stopping us from thinking even bigger. Our region has everything it takes to be recognized as a global aquatic outdoor destination. Copenhagen has its cyclists, why not Gatineau and its paddlers?
So how do we get there? First, access – our aquatic environments must become accessible, safe, and inviting. This requires a concerted effort to improve our infrastructure, protect water quality, and provide adequate information. We must also leverage the potential of our aquatic jewels. In the eastern part of the City, McLaurin Bay is a good example of an exceptional site that is suffering from a chronic lack of investment.
We must also encourage new enthusiasts by demystifying our waterbodies. The Ottawa River is not just a hurdle to overcome or a nice landscape to view. It is also a gigantic playground! Similarly, we must also foster the discovery of water activities by facilitating access to instruction. And why not a big push to target the next generation? Ottawa Riverkeeper’s idea of creating a “River School” is a great fit with this vision.
Gatineau City online consultations will be held until October 5th. For fans of outdoor aquatic activities and aspiring enthusiasts, this is your chance to be heard!
Executive Director, Ottawa Riverkeeper