Sheila Jones is founding member of Les Amis du Ruisseau de la Brasserie (2012), a community organization started by friends and neighbours in a historic neighbourhood of Gatineau, called “Le Village d’Argentine”. The area was developed by wealthy American industrialists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The ruisseau de la Brasserie, also known as Brewery Creek, is a 4 km long arm of the Ottawa River that forms the island of Hull beginning at Parc des Portageurs and re-entering the river beside Jacques Cartier Park.
Originally from Toronto, Sheila is a nurse and worked in Montreal before moving to the Ottawa area in 1973 where she later met her husband, John. Both were very interested in being close to the river and Gatineau Park, with hobbies such as paddling, fishing and walking their dogs. They moved they moved to this heritage-rich neighbourhood of Gatineau in 1999. The history of the area greatly interested Sheila which motivated her to join l’Association du Patrimoine du Ruisseau de la Brasserie, of which she was the president for 3 years. It was during this time that Sheila’s concern for Brewery Creek matured.
So much more than “just” a creek
Sheila loves the idea that the ruisseau de la Brasserie provides many “intangible” benefits. Her own mother inspired her to help make it an accessible natural area in an urban environment, especially for those who don’t get around easily. Her mom, who lived with her and John for about 5 years, had Alzheimers in her last years and found “true joy walking the dogs along this waterway.” Also inspired by fond memories of water activities she grew up with in the Kawarthas in southern Ontario, she wants to see this urban waterway “regain some of the traditional activities once it is cleaned up and the shorelines are made more user-friendly.” For example, up until 2011, there used to be a fishing derby along the creek run by the Ministère des ressources naturelles, and it was very popular. More importantly, the ruisseau served as a portage around the Chaudière Falls for centuries, first for the Algonquins and later for settlers. Restoring it as a canoe and portage route is a priority for Les Amis du Ruisseau de la Brasserie.
Les Amis du Ruisseau de la Brasserie
In 2012, Les Amis du Ruisseau de la Brasserie was formed. and began their stewardship efforts on the creek by organizing a cleanup activity for Ruisseau de la Brasserie,. Sheila coordinated with several community associations and businesses to organize a cleanup in May 2012. Wanting to keep the momentum going, Les Amis met later that year to come up with an action plan to focus attention on several issues including 1) , the mistreatment and neglect of the creek, 2) the creek’s health, and 3) the limited public understanding of the creek’s natural and recreational values.
Since 2012, Les Amis du Ruisseau de la Brasserie has become the leading citizen voice for the creek while organizing public outreach events that educate the community about the creek’s rich history, its health, and biodiversity. That year, they organized a talk at l’Arche Agapé with presentations related to the past, present and future of Brewery Creek by historian and archivist Michel Prévost, the president of le Club des Ornithologues de l’Outaoauis Gerard Desjardins and Alexandre Brett of Ottawa Riverkeeper.
That same year, Les Amis also collaborated with us to organize a BioBlitz on the creek, that allowed the community into the creek to learn about the diversity of plants and animals that live there. Sheila found it was a wonderful activity to help the community “discover what or who was in our backyards.” Les Amis also organizes yearly cleanups and in 2014 undertook a shoreline planting project on the creek. Each year, Les Amis activities are highlighted at a community information night, which is held in the fall. Already, efforts to draw attention to the creek have resulted in making its restoration a priority for the municipal council of Gatineau.
Les Amis and Ottawa Riverkeeper’s Riverwatch Network
In 2013, Les Amis joined Ottawa Riverkeeper’s network of riverwatchers as ORK’s official stewards for the creek. As part of the partnership, ORK’s staff scientist Meaghan Murphy developed a water quality testing program for the creek and trained Sheila and her husband on how to collect water samples during the summer season. The program has monitored water quality on the creek for the past two years and has highlighted the impact of the city’s combined sewers on poor water quality in some sections of the creek . Additionally, as part of the partnership ORK and Les Amis have coorganized numerous community events including a BioBlitz and two community meetings.