TNO – During the MRC council meeting, held August 26 in Campbell’s Bay, the mayors vigorously debated a resolution to request the Ministry of Natural Resources close Lake Dumont Road due to safety and environmental issues at the lake’s public beach. “This subject has come up each year for the last four or five years,” said Regent Dugas, the MRC’s territorial director.
The municipality of Cayamant, in MRC Haute Gatineau, asked the mayors for support on this issue; they have also proposed a resolution to close the road leading to the public beach. Aside from a lot of trash at the site, gunshots have been reported during parties and two major accidents have occurred in the last few weeks.
Although Lac Dumont is in MRC Pontiac’s TNO, Cayamant has intervened at the beach because they are closest to the site. Remi Bertrand, MRC’s Executive Director, commented that there are twenty issues regarding the site, but the most important is public safety. “Cayamant has had to intervene frequently, but they are not compensated. They have advised us they don’t want to continue. Do we accept what’s happening and look away or do we take responsibility for what is occurring in our territory?,” he asked.
Bertrand added that other organizations have attempted to manage the site, but decided against it after receiving threats.
A meeting was held in July to discuss the issues but a lack of manpower and funds made short-term solutions impossible. The issue was also discussed at a Land Use meeting in August, but, again, no solutions were reached, leading to the request to temporarily close the road.
“Look at any lake in the area and you are bound to see the same thing,” said Mayor of Campbell’s Bay, Bill Stewart, referring to litter at the site. “We are opening ourselves up to problems by blocking roads before fishing season ends. You won’t stop people…they will cut trails through the bush and you will have to close the road many times. They’ll get there if they really want to,” he added.
Mayor of Thorne, Terry Murdock, supported Stewart’s claim and said the MRC Pontiac would be defeating tourism goals by closing the site; he commented the amount of trash was minimal compared to other areas he has seen.
“If we close access to every lake that has garbage, we aren’t managing our territory well,” he added.
Murdock suggested supervising the site on popular weekends and coming up with an inter-municipal agreement with Cayamant. “If we don’t do something proactive, we are losing a beautiful piece of property. It’s not that big of a problem, it just needs to be policed more. If there is a long weekend or we know people will be in the area, the police need to be there. Then you will see things change,” he stressed.
Graham Hawley, mayor of Otter Lake agreed: “When people go to a place like Lac Dumont, they have no consequences for their actions, so it continues,” he stated.
Winston Sunstrum, mayor of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes, supported closing the road as he believes it will pressure the Ministry and other parties to work together. “Closing the road is a small action to take. The only way we can have better policing there is to double our budget,” he said.
Shawville Mayor, Sandra Murray questioned the area’s value: “The people who use the site don’t spend a cent here. It provides no economic or tourism benefits.” Murdock refuted Murray’s claim, saying a lot of local people use it regularly and that it is the nicest beach in the Pontiac. “A lot of our fisherman would be really disappointed if it closes,” he added.
Murray asked for a motion to temporarily close the road until a second meeting could be organized to find a solution, but it was defeated 8-7. “We need to take action. Informing the police is action and doing a study of the area’s environment is action. Closing the road isn’t,” stressed Murdock.
“Fishing is important for tourism, but when you are talking about people and trouble occurs, we are all in trouble. Intervening will make us face the problem,” said Pontiac Warden and Mayor of Fort-Coulonge, Raymond Durocher. “We have to do something as an MRC and work with the Ministry. If we don’t find solutions, five years from now we will still have the same problem. We know closing the road is not perfect, but right now we have a major problem and no plan,” he continued.
Murdock introduced a motion to send a delegation of mayors to visit the beach to witness the problem firsthand. “Everything won’t work right away, it will take time,” he added. Murray claimed that if those visiting the site want to get a clear idea of what is going on, they must visit on a weekend after 6 PM. Brent Orr, mayor of Bristol, introduced another motion to meet with Cayamant to discuss an inter-municipal agreement regarding emergency response.
Both motions were adopted.