Portage des Chats project – starting from the bottom up

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Deborah Powell

MUNICIPALITY OF  PONTIAC – More than 40 people attended a forum, November 2, intended to relaunch the project of the Chats Falls Park. The meeting was held at the Camp des Voyageurs Tim Horton near Quyon, part of thearea identified as “the

Deborah Powell

MUNICIPALITY OF  PONTIAC – More than 40 people attended a forum, November 2, intended to relaunch the project of the Chats Falls Park. The meeting was held at the Camp des Voyageurs Tim Horton near Quyon, part of thearea identified as “the
Chats”. Historian Maude-Emmanuelle Lambert was able to point out the window instead of to a map when referring to some of the points of interest during her presentation of the history of the area.
Lambert asked participants to picture the falls as they have been portrayed in paintings from the 19th and early 20th centuries, when their natural beauty attracted the attention of artists and tourists, just as the site had impressed Samuel de Champlain 400 years ago. The history of the area is long and colourful: first Nation’s trade route for thousands of years; European fur trade route; settlements that were a hub of the timber trade; and an unfinished canal meant to replace the horse-drawn railway and open an easy passage to the west of Canada.
Caroline Gagné, the Canadian Nature Conservancy’s Project Manager for the Outaouais, provided an overview of another key value of the area – its
biodiversity.  The presence of a number of rare animal and plant species has led the Nature Conservancy to purchase a number of hectares locally in order to protect the unique and often fragile habitat and create local stewardship groups to help with ongoing studies and other conservation activities.
Familiar with the history and natural wealth of the area, Katharine Fletcher addressed the Chats’ potential for the development of story telling linked with
environmentally responsible tourism.
CLD des Collines Interim Director, Louise Marchildon, reminded participants that plans had been formulated for a regional park in the area but subsequently shelved as they lacked a base in local reality and required a large financial commitment. “A regional park must be developed from the ground up,
by local citizens devoted to the cause. The development doesn’t
happen overnight,” she explained.
Participants worked in groups to come up with concrete ideas on the ways and means to promote and develop the Chats area. All recognized the essential importance of working together with other interested organizations and local stakeholders.
The first step of forming a non-profit organization was the object of a subsequent meeting, held November 11 at the Pontiac municipal offices, where a
smaller group of people worked on a name, mission statement and goals for the group. Another meeting is planned for mid-December to complete the task.