The Municipalité Régional de Comté (MRC) d’Argenteuil Council recently approved a motion that is a significant step towards the possible establishment of a regional park on the lower reaches of Rivière Rouge.
The motion adopted by council on January 28 authorizes the MRC to discuss the possibility of the creation of the park with the Québec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources. The parkland would be on property currently owned by Hydro-Québec within Grenville-sur-la-Rouge and Harrington. The power utility is planning to sell the land, which it inherited in the 1960’s when it took over the former Gatineau Power Company, which also owned the now idle Bell Falls generating station.
In 2018, efforts by Grenville-sur-la-Rouge to purchase the land within its territory were unsuccessful. In 2019, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing interests were concerned that if Hydro-Québec sold the land to private interests, it would impede recreational access to the river. Grenville-sur-la-Rouge responded by changing zoning on the land to only permit water recreation and hiking trails.
Efforts to have the Québec government create a provincially operated park on the lower Rouge have not been successful, so now the MRC is focusing its efforts on the establishment of a regional park. In October 2020, the MRC received $500,000 from the Québec government to aid with the effort of securing the 1,112 acres/450 hectares of Hydro-Québec land. The cost of the land is approximately $2.1 million.
Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Mayor Tom Arnold said it is still very early in the stages of negotiating the creation of a possible regional park on Rivière-Rouge.
“We’re quite a way off before we get to that part.”
He explained that all that the resolution approved by the MRC council does is permit negotiations to begin. The proposal is to have the Québec government purchase the land from Hydro-Québec and then lease it back to the MRC d’Argenteuil to operate the park.
Arnold said that he believes that the majority of area residents want the land and river protected, but he wants to be sure that the creation of a regional park does not create an extra tax burden and can be done in a cost-effective way.
Other MRC’s across Québec, including several in the Laurentides and Lanaudière regions, provide regional parks that conserve the natural environment and offer a range of outdoor recreation opportunities.