Muddy waters: Residents fight to remove 'floating campground'

·3 min read
Daniel Raymond and Renée Larose-Raymond say the cabins are a threat to the sensitive wetlands that make up Petrie Island. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)
Daniel Raymond and Renée Larose-Raymond say the cabins are a threat to the sensitive wetlands that make up Petrie Island. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)

A cluster of floating cabins in Ottawa's east end has hit the shoals of bureaucracy as residents continue a months-long fight for their removal.

Since November 2020, a jumble of colourful cabins have popped up over the docks of Ozile's Marina at Petrie Island in Orléans.

The marina, which has hosted private ice fishing shacks during the winter for years, lifted some of the shacks onto newly purchased floating docks for fishing year-round.

Eric Thériault, who has owned the marina since 2017, says the cabins sit on his private property and don't break any rules, but nearby residents have spent the past nine months trying to find out whether that's true.

Daniel Raymond and Renée Larose-Raymond have watched the encampment grow from their nearby condo tower.

"It's like a campground, that's what we call it — a floating campground," said Raymond, a retired public servant.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

The couple walk almost daily in the network of trails that wind through the Petrie Island conservation area along the Ottawa River.

They say the cabins — plus the attached vehicles, machinery, waste containers and overnight visitors — pose a threat to the designated wetlands nearby that are home to waterfowl and several species of protected turtles.

Their concerns have been cast from one authority to the next without a satisfactory response.

CBC News has seen the chain of correspondences between Raymond and various officials, including a provincial land and water specialist, a city planner, and members of city council.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

Notices of violation

While almost everyone — including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson — acknowledged the need to "look into the matter," none had hinted at intervening until CBC started calling around.

The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority declined an interview request, but confirmed at least one provincial ministry is preparing notices of violation.

Should any sanctions come, they will catch Theriault off-guard. He denies the cabins require any permitting beyond what's applicable for ice fishing in the same body of water during winter.

He also argues the marina has actually helped clean up what was once a badly run property.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

'Live with each other'

Al Macintyre, who docks his shack at Ozile's, has been fishing in the inlet since 1981. He said people in the fishing community are the ones who have had to accept the arrival of condominium towers, rather than the other way around.

"Let's be in a community and live with each other," said the 72-year-old resident of nearby Rockland.

"[This] not a cottage to me, it's a fish house, where I fish from all year round."

Area councillor Matt Luloff called Thériault's company "great partners" with "great visions" for the area, but he remains unclear on if the year-round cabins are legal.

Some visitors believe the marina sits on the Ottawa River, but Thériault argues the water sits over private land that was flooded through the construction of the Carillon Dam in 1962.

Surveys conducted by the Ontario ministry responsible for natural resources muddy that water, though, as it shows parts of the cabin structures sit over Crown land.

In April, Scott Lockhart with the City of Ottawa planning division said the city had no authority over floating structures, but added the cabins should not be occupied recreationally.

The province declined to comment on whether violation notices were being crafted.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC
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