Woodland trails, a perfect temperature, and lots of snow made Alfred’s Larocque Forest the perfect place to spend Family Day. 

The trails were open for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and walking. Draws were held for various prizes, and the free Timbits and chocolate milk were popular with younger visitors. 

Larocque Forest is approximately 35 acres and was once part of the 300-acre former College d’Alfred campus. According to Alfred and Plantagenet Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin, the township acquired the land from the Union des cultivateurs franco-ontariens (UCFO) farmer’s organization in 2021, following a process that took approximately a year. 

“We had to do the surveying and everything,” Sarrazin said. 

The UCFO sold the land to the township for approximately $90,000. 

The Larocque Forest is located at the south end of Larocque Street past Larocque Park, where Alfred’s baseball field and outdoor rink are located. 

“It’s a nice addition to Larocque Park,” Sarrazin enthused. 

A 10-member committee oversees the forest and its development as a place for outdoor recreation. Two members are municipal councillors, and the remaining eight are volunteers.

One of those volunteers is Manon Besner, whose profession is a Forestry Technician for the United Counties of Prescott and Russell at the Larose Forest. She has been using her expertise from developing and maintaining the vast network of trails in the Larose Forest to help develop trails that engage community participation in Alfred. 

“We tried to do something to encourage people to play outside,” Besner explained. 

Other Larocque Forest committee members are teachers and parents with an interest in having a place to explore and learn for children.  

“We have some real champions on that committee,” Sarrazin said proudly. 

The mayor said classes of students from nearby École élémentaire catholique St-Victor frequently visit the forest for outdoor activities. 

There are approximately 3.5 kilometres of trails in the Larocque Forest, which in the winter are suitable for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or walking. A cross-country ski trail groomer was purchased and Alfred and Plantagenet Fire Chief Dominic Côté volunteers to operate it – towing the groomer behind his snowmobile to keep the conditions good for skiers. The forest itself is a mix of hardwood trees and a red pine plantation, which make for a beautiful setting. 

Residents of Alfred and Plantagenet who do not own a pair of snowshoes can easily try them out in the Larocque Forest because they are available for loan, just like books, at the public library in Alfred. Last spring, a cleanup day was held, where residents gathered up garbage from the forest. Sarrazin expects another day to be held this upcoming spring. 

Sarrazin is hoping the Larocque Forest will become a well-used place for recreation by both residents of Alfred-Plantagenet and visitors to the township. 

The Larocque Forest is protected by a municipal by-law. Access is free to everyone, and parking is available at Larocque Park, or at the end of Larocque Street near the water tower in Alfred. There are dedicated paths for visitors exploring the forest by snowshoe, ski, or on foot. Maps are available at https://www.alfred-plantagenet.com/en/explore-and-play/cross-country-skiing-and-snowshoeing.aspx .

Family enjoying a walk through the Larocque Forest in Alfred on Family Day. Photo: James Morgan

Lisa Mitchell, Stew Henry, and Grace live in Treadwell, but they often drive to Alfred to walk in the Larocque Forest. Mitchell and Henry said they recently moved to the area and appreciate having a place to enjoy the outdoors with Grace. Photo: James Morgan