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NEWS: Tree-sitting protest against Highway 5 extension

Aerial image of the destruction of the highway project to date published in The Low Down.

CBC Radio reports this morning that Jamie Robertson is at this moment perched in a 100-foot tree scheduled to be cut down for the construction of Highway 5 near Wakefield, Quebec, just north of Ottawa.

The Council of Canadians has raised concerns over the past year and a half that the Valley Drive Spring, a popular water source in Wakefield, could be contaminated by the extension of Highway 5. The West Quebec Post has reported, “A federal assessment (which approved the extension) acknowledged (that no one knows the exact source of all the spring water and) did not require public consultation. …The 1986 Quebec consultation did not look at hydrology.” CBC has reported, “Transport Canada performed a preliminary assessment and determined that the project – which would involve lopping off a nearby hilltop – could contaminate the aquifer.” For highlights of our efforts to protect the spring please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=11598.

Robertson will be in the tree today and other climbers will be occupying trees in the pathway of the highway construction throughout the winter and into the spring. While many trees have already been cut down for the highway extension, more clearcutting is scheduled for January.

As noted on the Gatineau Park Protection Committee Facebook page, “Eco-Watch director Ian Hugget has informed me that Wakefield Citizens will be holding a press conference to protest Gatineau Park clearcuts on January 5 at 11:00 a.m. Location: at the end of Brown Lake Road in Wakefield. Environmental groups and concerned citizens have been trying to limit the ecological impact of the Highway 5 extension through the park. Efforts have included attempts to convince Transport Quebec to reduce the width of the highway exchange from six lanes to two lanes, and to eliminate one of the two traffic circles. Those efforts having failed, citizens are now asking for a freeze on construction of the Wakefield section of Highway 5 pending completion of the Chelsea portion. The Gatineau Park Protection Committee, for its part, hopes to attract the attention of politicians to the need to legislate solid boundaries for the park, which the NCC has been changing without informing the public. The GPPC also seeks to urge parliamentarians to adopt a coherent, ecologically focused and rational land management policy for the park.”

The Ottawa Citizen reported earlier this week that Jacques Gréber – the renowned French architect and planner who redesigned Ottawa (by expanding urban parks and pathways, and by putting into place the Greenbelt) and Gatineau – “wouldn’t think highly of the extended Highway 5.” The article highlights, “From Paris, Xavier Reynaud says his great-grandfather (who died in 1962) loved Gatineau Park, and would be shocked to see highway construction cutting through the forest near the park’s eastern edge. …It was only recently that Reynaud, who is married to a woman from Toronto and regularly visits Canada, learned of the extension of Highway 5. Crews are currently blasting away steep hills and cutting forests to join Wakefield to Gatineau with four lanes. …It doesn’t matter that the National Capital Commission has shifted the boundaries to ensure that the road is outside the actual park, he says, since the clear-cutting still affects trees that are part of the park’s ecosystem.”

More information is available on the Gatineau Park Protection Committee Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gatineau-Park-Protection-Committee/172280689451937.