Dog Friendly Wakefield Fresh Water Spring – Quebec, Canada
On Easter weekend, the bipeds and I made our monthly pilgrimage to a fresh water spring not too far from our home. The spring is one of those little local treasures we discovered when being tourists in our own neck of the woods. It’s on the way to a small, dog friendly town named Wakefield. I’ve mentioned this village before and will likely mention it again. We really hope the Wakefield Steam Train will blow its whistle again in a call to adventure.
But I digress. Back to our road trip.
You may know this already, but the bipeds are really into the whole healthy lifestyle thing. It’s something we would like to share with you, Dear Reader. This summer, we hope to bring you a short series on some of our local healthy lifestyle finds – organic farms, pesticide-free vineyards, environmentally friendly restored monuments, fresh water springs, and more!
Being close to the land is not something we can achieve day-to-day. We are, and love being, city folk, but we appreciate that farmers feed cities. We believe it is good to know, if possible, where your food comes from and to minimize your carbon footprint by eating locally grown and harvested food whenever possible. Organic is also something we believe in. And there’s nothing quite as nice as fresh air and a little road trip to re-connect with nature and the wonderful people who supply our food and beverages. This way, we also get to see first-hand the quality of the produce and the animal husbandry; that helps us decide where we want to spend our grocery dollars.
A fresh water spring is a local treat we’ve been able to add to our healthy lifestyle list. A fresh water spring is a gem and something many Westerners take for granted. After all, we can just turn on the tap or buy bottled water, right? But so much of our planet – plants, animals and humans – suffer from lack of water, so it is a precious gift to be able to have access to clean drinking water, and a free natural spring at that.
Spring water is different. It hasn’t been loaded with chemicals such as fluoride and chlorine. It’s fresh and bubbling with oxygen. In a word, spring water is alive! I know that since my bipeds switched my water to the spring water, my fur, eyes and skin all have a glow of health about them – even more so than with the filtered water I used to get. We are not experts – we can’t tell you the why behind it – but we feel the difference. This is especially so for Mom who has long suffered in her tummy. The fresh spring water has a curative aspect for her.
Every month or so, we take a short 20 minute drive to Valley Drive, just outside of the town of Wakefield, and stop at the spring. We take our own water containers and fill them up. Sometimes, we stop in Wakefield first for a bite to eat at a dog friendly patio, or stop in and say hello to Marie-Sophie at Miss Petalia, but often our journey is just to fetch the precious, glorious, wonderful, living water.
We save this water for drinking pure, unadulterated … on its own.
Every single time we drink this water, we marvel. These two simple spring taps provide clean drinking water to more than 5,000 people for free. In this day and age, that’s a minor miracle!
I did a little digging (into information, not dirt) and learned that no one really knows when people started drinking water from the spring, but some of the very senior locals do recall that as far back as the 1920s, cattle regularly came for a drink at the spring. Documentation shows that in the early 1940s, the bubbling water was captured in a simple wooden box to water Marshall Brown’s cattle. It seems the spring was then on his land.
Newspaper clippings tell the story of Alcan plant workers and the spring. Apparently, workers from the plant complained of the chlorine taste in the plant water; later, a dead cow was found near that same water. Mr. Walsh (who we think might have owned the plant) hatched a plan with his friend, Mr. Brown, who, as we mentioned, owned the land where the spring is located, to use water from the Wakefield spring for the plant workers. According to Mr. Walsh’s still-living son, Bob, the plant employees installed a 40-foot long galvanized three-inch diameter pipe with a steel brace at the end. The pipes were welded and the wooden bucket was upgraded to a hose for easier filling. The young Walsh was then assigned to collect water for Alcan’s 70 employees. A company truck would often be seen stopped at the spring, drawing water.
Local residents we spoke with say it was fortunate the spring was not covered up and diverted when the first road improvement transitioned the dirt trail to a narrow side street in 1944. Fortune smiled again and kept the spring intact when the road was paved between 1945 and 1952.
More recently, in 1986, it was “Lorne” rather than fortune who saved the spring. According to Shirley Shouldice, Lorne’s wife, “Lorne raised proper hell” when as a Wakefield councilor, he discovered that the paving of Valley Drive in 1986 would result in the loss of the spring. “There is no way we are going to let this happen,” Shirley remembers Lorne saying. True to his word, Lorne supplied highway workers with the materials needed to divert the water and install the pipes at the spring’s current location. The water flow became even stronger afterward! A plaque was erected to honour Lorne Shouldice. That original was stolen (why?!) but a new one was quickly put in place and there it still stands.
In 2010, the Wakefield Spring once again came under threat, and its future still hangs in the balance. Why? Because the two-lane Road 5 is being expanded into the new Highway 5- a four-lane beast. Local residents have held protests, physically standing on guard until forcibly removed by police, in order to do what they can to preserve the spring. Lorne continues his battle to save the spring, even creating a website: www.soswakefield.ca
Local residents, city folk from Gatineau and Ottawa and even further away, drive to the spring for its clear fresh water. It’s still running free: free from being bottled and free to the people. In many ways, this free and fresh drinking water that flows from very modest taps under a roadside shelter has become a symbol of the local spirit. The spring continues on; again under threat, you can hear the great voice of the “little” people rise up, “There is no way we are going to let this happen!”
I really hope that is true. I really do.