Candice Vetter speaks on behalf of Save Our Lake at the Russell Township council meeting Dec. 2. Marie Claire Ivanski, behind Vetter, gave the presentation in French. The group wants to preserve Quarry Lake at the North Russell Quarry. Courtesy photo

RUSSELL – Mayor Pierre Leroux earned a round of applause from a packed Russell Township council chambers Monday, when he declared support for conservation zoning at North Russell Quarry; if a new group is successful in acquiring it.

Called Save Our Lake, the group rapidly gaining traction. It was represented at the meeting by Candice Vetter with Marie Claire Ivanski delivering the proposal in French. The objective is to buy the quarry site, which over the years has gradually transformed into a lake from Ottawa’s Taggart Construction and preserve it for posterity.

Several years ago, the site was designated by Taggart Miller Environmental Services as a preferred location of its proposed landfill and recycling centre. But the company was driven to a different site 4 km away by intense opposition from the Dump the Dump citizens committee, including Vetter; one of the main arguments put forward was the environmental sensitivity of the quarry.

The quarry site has remained idle ever since, with Taggart speculating it would make an attractive residential development someday. Leroux and Russell planning director Dominique Tremblay have specified the land is currently zoned for one use only…aggregate extraction.

Support for the Save Our Lake initiative has been coming from far and wide, including the Citizens’ Environmental Stewardship Association-East of Ottawa which includes Dump the Dump: “It fits well with our main strategic objective of habitat regeneration,” said spokesman Harry Baker. “We’re more than dump fighters… we’re stewards of the environment.”

Baker sees acquisition of the quarry as an opportunity to bring natural swimming back to the township, replacing former swimming holes in the Castor River.

He also envisions a large Russell brick monument at the site similar to Sudbury’s Big Nickel. The quarry’s red shale was the main ingredient of the township’s regionally famous brickworks.

The Oxford Environmental Action committee sent a letter of support describing what’s becoming known as Quarry Lake as a key ecological feature: “We encourage you to embrace the excitement of putting Russell Township on the map as a pioneer in integrating community vision with enhanced quarry rehabilitation: Open water swimming, recreational skating, bird watching, natural trails, interpretive history tours… an accessible space wildlife and the community can all benefit from and enjoy.”

Going even further, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ottawa Valley Chapter, has offered to help acquire the property and apply for funding; executive director John McDonnell attended the council meeting. Vetter also cited several other environmental organizations and service clubs getting on board the project.

“Habitat destruction of Quarry Lake and the land around it should never be allowed, not in any form,” Vetter stated. “It holds groundwater in an aquifer that local residents and farms depend on. And the shale there is a provincially protected resource.”

Because the site is already protected, Vetter said a “pile of weight is added to the cause.” Following the meeting, she expressed satisfaction with council’s unofficial support. “The Community Concert Band played Christmas carols before the meeting. That put everyone in a good mood before we even started,” she added.