Residents unite to save Park St-Robert Forest

Julie Cadieux, St.Lazare –

Last Sunday morning over 70 residents met up at Parc St-Robert to show their support for keeping Park St-Robert as is. The park already has two outdoor sports fields but the town says there is a need for a third. On May 1st, the majority of council voted against a proposed resolution which would give a mandate to allow an analysis be done to find the best locations for the field.

The movement, ‘Sauvons Nos Arbres Et Le Parc St-Robert’, started by Julie Laberge and her husband Tony Sionneau and endorsed by district councilor #5, Gilbert Arsenault want to make residents aware that if they do nothing, council might go ahead at the June 5th council meeting with plans to cut down the trees and build the third sports field, complete with lights. But residents showed up with more concerns than just the simple the cutting down of trees.

 “There are thousands of birds that migrate on the lake right across from the park, all kinds of wildlife living in the forest, there are kids who have set up BMX jumps at the edge of the forest, there are trails for walking and horseback riding plus just down the road is La Piniere where the town just spent over $600K purchasing more land to conserve, so it doesn’t make any sense why the town wants to mow down the forest here” explained Sophie, a resident who lives walking distance to the park. Others are also concerned about the added noise and light pollution which already effects their quality of life “If I wanted to live next to Jarry Park I would have moved there not here in St-Lazare where I wanted peace and quiet!” explained one frustrated resident. If the remaining forest is cut down there will be little noise buffer left.

Julie Laberge says she extended the invite to the Sunday morning meeting to all press, mayoral candidates and council members but only district #2, Nathalie Richard showed up as well as mayoral candidate Robert Grimaudo who is campaigning on a platform of “environment, community and cooperation” and backs the movement. David Hill, member of St-Lazare’s The Voices Of Nature group also said a few words in support “we can’t think, [it’s not happening] in my backyard, we need to come together as a community” he said.

Bridgite Asselin of disctrict #3 and interim mayor wrote in an email to the Hudson St-Lazare Gazette that she was unaware of the meeting and confirmed that council will be making a decision at the next session to add a soccer field to the park. “Changing the location would require the purchase of land which is not in the town’s budget” wrote Asselin. She also said that the third soccer field has long been in the works for the parks development and that the existing infrastructure such as parking, lighting and electricity will reduce cost and green space needed and added that in a study presented to council regarding the towns wet lands, Parc St-Robert was not mentioned as requiring any particular protection.

Arsenault and Richard encourage residents to show up at the next town council meeting to be held on June 5th to voice their opinions and concerns. The last step in the democratic process would be to open a register and if a minimum of 500 residents sign it then the town could hold a referendum.

Arsenault admitted that he has been trying to work on this issue for months with council, explaining that he is not against building another sports field somewhere but that the town needs to think long term when developing and wants to have a proper study done “we have to invest into it, it’s for the next 50 years, we did it for the [Birchwood Elementary] school, for La Piniere … when it’s time to build a major infrastructure it makes sense…”

For more information you can contact the ‘Sauvons Nos Arbres Et Le Parc St-Robert’ and ‘Voices for Nature’ Facebook pages.

The Hudson St-Lazare Gazette, May 30 2012 – Julie Cadieux

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