Muddy water: residents fight to remove “floating campground”

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A group of floating cabins in east Ottawa hit the benches of bureaucracy as residents continue a months-long struggle for their removal.

Since November 2020, a jumble of colorful cabins has sprung up above the docks of Ozile Marina on Petrie Island in Orleans.

The marina, which has housed private ice fishing cabins during the winter for years, has lifted some of the cabins to newly purchased floating docks for year-round fishing.

Eric Thériault, owner of the marina since 2017, says the cabins sit on his private property and don’t break any rules, but nearby residents have spent the past nine months trying to find out if that’s true.

Daniel Raymond and Renée Larose-Raymond have seen the camp grow from their turn to neighboring condos.

“It’s like a campground, that’s what it’s called – a floating campground,” said Raymond, a retired civil servant.

Daniel Raymond and Renée Larose-Raymond say the cabins are a threat to the sensitive wetlands that make up Petrie Island. (Stu Mills / CBC)

The couple walk almost daily on the network of trails that wind through the Petrie Island Conservation Area along the Ottawa River.

They say the cabins – along with vehicles, machinery, garbage containers and overnight visitors – pose a threat to designated wetlands nearby that are home to waterfowl and several protected turtle species.

Their concerns were passed from one authority to another without a satisfactory response.

CBC News saw the chain of correspondence between Raymond and various officials, including a provincial land and water specialist, a town planner and members of city council.

A man and his dog take a nap in a floating cabin at the marina near Petrie Island. (Stu Mills / CBC)

Notice of violation

While almost everyone – including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson – recognized the need to “look into the matter,” none had suggested that something needed to be done until CBC started calling.

The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority denied a request for an interview, but confirmed that at least one provincial ministry was preparing violation notices.

If sanctions were to come up, they would take Thériault by surprise. He denies that the cabins require a permit beyond what is applicable for ice fishing in the same body of water in winter.

He also argues that the marina actually helped clean up what was once a poorly managed property.

Al MacIntyre has fished in the same ice fishing hut for the past 20 years. Now he uses it all year round. (Stu Mills / CBC)

“Living with each other”

Al Mcintyre, who moored his cabin at Ozile, has been fishing the creek since 1981. He said members of the fishing community are the ones who have had to come to terms with the arrival of the condominium tours, rather than the other way around.

“Let’s be in a community and live with each other,” said the 72-year-old resident of neighboring Rockland.

“[This] not a cottage for me, it’s a fish house, where I fish all year round. “

Regional councilor Matt Luloff has called Thériault’s company “great partners” with “big visions” for the region, but he is still unsure whether year-round cabins are legal.

Some visitors believe the marina is on the Ottawa River, but Thériault maintains that the water is on private land that was inundated during the construction of the Carillon Dam in 1962.

Surveys conducted by Ontario’s ministry responsible for natural resources are troubling this water, showing that parts of the cabin structures rest on Crown land.

In April, Scott Lockhart of the City of Ottawa’s Planning Division said the city had no authority over floating structures, but added that the cabins should not be occupied for recreational purposes.

The province declined to comment on whether notices of violation were being developed.

Two fairly recent condo towers overlook the southeast arm of Petrie Island. (Stu Mills / CBC)


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