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St. Lazare

Green ribbons in St. Lazare a symbol that we can sometimes get what we want

  • Green ribbons in St. Lazare are a symbol of how residents can make things happen.
    Green ribbons in St. Lazare are a symbol of how residents can make things happen.
    Photo credit: Brenda O'Farrell, The Gazette

If you drive around parts of St. Lazare these days, you see them: green ribbons tied to trees. They have become the symbol of hope, co-operation and the type of success that comes with perseverance.

These ribbons are at the centre of an awareness campaign to draw attention to the importance of preserving the woods around Dunes Lake, one of the prettiest natural areas in the municipality. The campaign was launched by a group of citizens who have been working diligently for years to convince the town’s council to protect the area from development.

Last week, council announced it will be taking a second run at acquiring the land, after its first attempt was thwarted when more than 900 residents signed a register, effectively blocking the borrowing bylaw that would have financed the deal.

The results of the register came as a bit of a surprise to many. It is true that not everyone is in favour of the town buying the land. But no one who worked on this project over the years ever thought that the bylaw would be blocked. And when the whole thing was reviewed, the bylaw was not as much blocked as hijacked. It was defeated by a group of residents who launched a petty campaign based on half-truths and financial fearmongering in an attempt to draw attention away from Dunes Lake and on their issues in their neighbourhood.

After the register results came in, it appeared there were two groups of residents at odds: supporters of the Friends of Dunes Lake and a contingent of homeowners in the Chaline Valley area of town. Their respective goals: saving the lake area on one side and attempting to get council to address issues, like ditches that don’t drain and landslide threats, on the other. In between was a municipal council that was failing to show the vision and leadership to address all these needs.

But the residents found a way to open a dialogue. And, together, they decided that their issues were not in competition. They simply had to find a way to put pressure on their councillors to do their jobs and address all the issues. They sparked a new spirit of citizen activism in the town.

On a one-page information sheet that the members of the Friends of Dunes Lake are distributing with the green ribbons is a list of all the town councillors and their email addresses. Everyone is invited to send a note to their councillors to convince them of the need to preserve the wooded area around the lake. Residents are being encouraged to get involved and to advocate. They are being asked to step up and help create the town that best reflects their values and needs for the future.

And in response, the council is starting to listen. Last week, council not only announced it was putting forward a notice of motion for a new borrowing bylaw to acquire the land around Dunes Lake, it voted to approve the construction of a new access road for the Chaline Valley area.

In an interview this week, Judy Nagy, one of the leaders of Friends of Dunes Lake, said it best: “Through the trials and tribulations, the community is coming together.” The stalling, the arguing and the inaction have stopped. Council is moving ahead. They are listening to what people have to say; what they want. It simply took the people to tell them.

With a little leadership, St. Lazare is working to get it all. Think about: just last week council approved the purchase of Dunes Lake, much needed improvements for Chaline Valley and we’re getting a new Tim Hortons.

Feel free to add your comments below.

Brenda O’Farrell

One comment

  1. By Citizens doing the jobs of useless council members

    It is truly a great thing that citizens from Vallee Chaline and the Friends of Dunes have come together, working for the overall good of Saint-Lazare. It seems that this is supposed to be the role of council members. But unfortunately, Jean-Pierre Giguere and Brigitte Asselin are entirely incompetent in actually getting anything done for their districts, It took citizens to get things done. This is because at least these two council members have no concept of thier role nor take any leadership or sense of responsibility for the community.

    I have a question. Now that the residents of Valle Chaline are being taken seriously by council, and now that the dis-information campaign has been shown to be full of lies, would a register for city-wide loan bylaw for Dunes Forests get the 500 signatures? Why not a do-over?

    I still cant understand why Brigitte Asselin has not been held accountable for never telling residents about the landslide rezoning. 5 years ago, she should have informed the residents and formed a task force. She did nothing for the district for over a decade.

    Residents like Mr. Meades and Ms. Nagy deserve our thanks and disgraced council members should be held accountable.

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