Gatineau councillor wants stronger heritage protection for Aylmer ruins
Gatineau city councillor Caroline Murray is not giving up on her goal of a provincial heritage designation for the ruins of the Deschênes Rapids dam.
The stone ruins that jut from the choppy waters of the Ottawa River between Gatineau's Deschênes district and Ottawa's Britannia Village west of each downtown are what remain of a dam that dates back to 1885.
Transports Québec, which owns the land, said in 2017 it would demolish the ruins due to public safety concerns. Then in 2020, it issued a deadline for a buyer to come forward or else it would remove the ruins. That deadline was later set aside.
Murray, the councillor for Deschênes, is launching a petition calling on the provincial government to preserve them.
"The remains of the Deschênes Rapids are an emblem for Aylmer and for Gatineau," Murray said in French.
In March 2022, Murray brought a motion to Gatineau council calling on the city to request the province designate the ruins a heritage site.
Gatineau council instead voted for a municipal historic designation, which Mayor France Bélisle said does not require the municipality to assume responsibility for the site.
The local resident association applauded that decision, calling it a first step toward broader protections. Other citizen groups in the area have mobilized to prevent a demolition.
Ruins 'can be better secured'
According to a government memo in 2021, the combination of the ruins and the fast currents make rescue operations at the Deschênes Rapids perilous for first responders.
Transports Québec told CBC six people had died or gone missing in the water near the ruins over the previous decade.
Pontiac MNA André Fortin has expressed support for Murray.
"The remains of the Deschênes Rapids can be better secured, while preserving and enhancing the character of the place," he said in French, adding that a demolition is avoidable.
Murray's current petition is available to be signed on the National Assembly website until June 7.
An exploratory walk and information session will take place May 17 at the André-Touchet community centre at 57 chemin Vanier, less than a kilometre north of the ruins.