This is an article that I have recently submitted to the paper, Main Street, that covers the local areas where I grew up in Quebec, Canada. If you know of anyone living in the Ste Adele area, or potential investors for this project, please make them aware of this article.
A Valley and a Village Under Threat by Joanna van der Hoeven
“You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the Earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children; that the Earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
This we know – the Earth does not belong to man – man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the Earth – befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself…
But in your perishing you will shine brightly… That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are slaughtered, the wild horses tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the Eagle? Gone. It is the end of living and the beginning of survival.”
- Chief Seattle, 1854
These words ring in my mind as I look out over the beautiful valley of my home where I grew up. This land has become threatened by developers who seek to flood the valley, raise a giant monstrosity of an indoor water park and recreation centre, and ring the newly created lake with large condominiums. As if this wasn’t enough, they also want to extend further up into the virgin forest, with gondola access to upper hamlets, destroying the beauty of the deciduous boreal forest that so delights the eye, especially in its autumn splendour.
Maalouf International have bought the historical Rolland Paper Mill and land that borders the North River in Ste Adele (previously the municipality of Mont Rolland). Together with an extended loan from the Ville de Sainte Adele they hope to develop the land into a great tourist attraction which they claim will create 240 million in investments, thousands of jobs and economic joy for the region. They call this project La Rolland, and the website is http://www.la-rolland.ca. They are working with M2 Leisure who are drawing up the plans for the project, which you can see along with a video of the proposed development at http://www.m2leisure.com/projects/la-rolland-green-holiday-resorts.
Where to start? The problems with this development are manifold. Let’s begin with the most important, in my view: the destruction of our rural countryside. La Rolland project will flood the entire valley, which currently consists of a wildflower and grass meadow adjacent to a water meadow that lies next to the North River. Flooding this land will have a devastating impact upon the flora and fauna, which includes deer, hawk, toads, mice, snakes, turkey vultures, porcupines, and skunks, not to mention the flowers, grasses and trees that will be utterly destroyed. No ecological or environmental survey of the land has been done to date, and this really needs to be addressed first and foremost in order to protect the wildlife.
Next we have the false economy spin. They claim that this development will generate millions for the area, but in a time of economic uncertainty, coupled with the fact that two previous water parks in the region (Cascades d’Eau and Super Splash) have gone under makes this claim seem dubious at best. The plan is to build a great waterpark and resort, with an indoor recreation centre and waterslides, as well as outdoor water activities around which accommodation will be built. There will be shops and restaurants in a “mall” adjacent to the recreation centre. This will negatively impact upon the shops and restaurants currently in the area, as they will see their tourist trade fall away as it is being centred upon a single area and the profits of which going to a single entity. What will become of all these independent traders in the actual village/town of Sainte Adele?
Also, what happens if/when the project fails (as other water parks in the area have) to the valley itself? Will the buildings lie derelict along the false lake as a testament to a poorly conceived project? Will Ville de Sainte Adele have to pay even more money just to get rid of it if/when it all goes bust? Will the destruction of a beautiful ecosystem and view from the popular linear park and residential properties all be for nothing, leaving behind the scarred and derelict remains of an outsider’s failed plan?
Now we move on to the residents living in the area. Overlooking the valley are the residents that live upon the plateau, namely those who live upon rue Lepine. These houses were built in the 1950’s, and residents have lived there all their lives. Their backyards open out to the beauty of the valley and the hills beyond, and if this monstrosity is built then their privacy will be seriously invaded. Also, the Municipal Garage backs onto the valley, where their piles of grit/sand for the roads in winter and the heavy machinery that moves them can be seen and heard from most of the valley. Not exactly ideal for visiting tourists, though the buzzards and deer don’t seem to mind. There is also the consideration of noise and light pollution to take into account, for the amount that will be generated by this development seriously questions M2 Leisure’s whole “green holiday resort” idea, let alone the devastation that it will have upon the local flora and fauna. Then we also have the issue of property value; when it comes to selling any of these properties that overlook the proposed development, their value will be seriously compromised because of the huge eyesore adjacent. Who will want to buy a property that has no privacy and overlooks a massive recreation centre and a small town of condos, not to mention a gondola in constant use going up and down past your house?
Finally, we have the problem of infrastructure. There just isn’t the capacity in this part of Ste Adele to accommodate the influx of traffic to the area. To get to this area, you have to cross a bridge, for the North River divides Sainte Adele into two parts (which were Sainte Adele and Mont Rolland). The main route into the sleepy little village is via the 117, at the traffic lights where rue Valiquette meets the 117. The bridge that crosses the river towards Rolland Paper is a small, one lane on either side affair that was built in the ’60’s or 70’s, and we all know what is currently happening to all these bridges in Quebec at the moment: they’re falling apart. The amount of traffic that would be crossing this bridge to get to the proposed resort would not only greatly compromise the integrity of the bridge, but create huge traffic build-ups going into and out of that district. On weekends and summer holidays, we can easily envision a queue of cars spanning the entire bridge, back into the village itself and simply creating havoc. At the moment, during peak cross-country ski season and in high summer for cycling the number of visitors for the linear park Le P’tit Train du Nord has already maxed out the road capacity. The residents who live along these roads in and out of the village will have to content with even greater noise and pollution. The roads cannot be widened to accommodate more traffic either, because of the houses built all along the roads in and out of the sleepy little village.
The second route into Rolland Paper is from the previous exit on the 117, which takes you by the back way into the area. This route has even smaller roads that cannot be widened, because it runs right along the North River. An historic old bridge spans the river here, a bridge that should, in my opinion, have a national landmark and heritage status. It is tiny bridge that many people have stood upon to admire the rushing rapids below, taking the breath away with its excitement and energy. This bridge would have to be destroyed, for it is an old and weak bridge that simply couldn’t take an increase in traffic.
These are just some of the problems involved with the destruction of a peaceful village in the Laurentian mountains. The issues raised are but the tip of the iceberg on the negative impact that this will have on the region. We need to protect our villages from such eager and ill-informed development. The package being presented to investors shows nothing of the houses that overlook the development, or the fact that it will be created right next to a historic village. The plans show nothing of the village or surrounding areas that will be affected and, in fact, the houses are replaced with trees and empty countryside in all the drawings. The people of the village have been blotted out in order to create the illusion of a remote, secluded space to develop their idea of a holiday park. The reality is, of course, very different.
I, like many others who grew up in the area, spent many long hours in that valley and in those woods, letting my heart soar free in the mountains, letting my soul sing in the beauty of the valley that was my home. Even visitors to this area who travel along the linear park stop and take a moment to look upon this valley from the wonderful vantage point that the old railway track provides, admiring the beauty and knowing that this is why they have come here. This unspoilt place was my rooting ground, the place that always drew me back. I now live abroad, but visit my parents who still live on the plateau once or twice a year, as often as I can. I visit the valley that is so much a part of who I am. And so I write this article, hoping that I can instigate people to action against this development, people in the area who will be able to keep on Ville de Sainte Adele’s case, who will be able to keep abreast of any further news of the development. We need to know when the planning is submitted to Sainte Adele, and ensure that there is a town meeting where residents can express their views. We need to make local residents aware of what is going on, and to organise a committee of people dedicated to preserving the valley and the surrounding forest. We need computer-literate people who can keep abreast of notices posted online by Ville de Sainte Adele. We need to notify local environmental agencies to what is happening so that they can help assist us in protecting the area.
Earlier this month, soil samples were taken in preparation for planning submission to the town council. The sight of those people in their high-vis vests in the valley was devastating, and the reality of the proposed development really hit home. Literally. This is no project to be shrugged off, but something really serious that could utterly destroy a landscape and a village should it be allowed to go through. I hope that this article helps to start a grassroots movement against this destruction, so that the people of the region can continue to live their lives in the peace and harmony that is the wonderful Laurentian landscape. It’s hard to do more when I live thousands of miles away, and so I pass the baton over to you, to begin the fight against further development of our rural landscape and the destruction of our heritage landmarks.