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Call for creativity for the Canal

By Nick Zacharias


A competition launched by the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC and the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications is accepting design proposals to bring the historic Soulanges Canal into the future.

The Soulanges Canal, at well over a century old, is a storied part of this region’s past. A new competition launched jointly by the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Municipalité régionale de comté (MRC) and the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications aims to bring the historic canal into the future – respecting its heritage and creating a vision for people to enjoy for decades to come.

Photo John H. Bascom, Oct. 21, 1958

Bayanna was a self unloading bulk carrier that sailed for the Bayswater fleet of Brockville, Ontario. She is approaching Lock 1 of the Soulanges Canal. The light tower in the background is on the end of the north pier at Cascades Point.

Nineteenth century glory days

Constructed over an eight-year period starting in 1891, the 24km-long canal used five locks along the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River between Lake Saint-Louis and Lake Saint-Francis to let shipping safely bypass sections like the Cascades and Coteau rapids. It also holds the distinction of being the first canal in the world artificially lit for its entire length (thanks to a small hydroelectric generating station along the way) which allowed for 24-hour operations.

Getting back its shine

When the Beauharnois Canal on the south shore was enlarged in the 1950s, the locks on the Soulanges canal were put to rest. Says Simon Richard, Communication Advisor for community relations MRC de Vaudreuil-Soulanges, “The Soulanges Canal has been an impressive feature for the region, but it has been, shall we say, degrading for a lot of years. We want to give it back its shine.”

Already home to a number of parks and a beautiful cycling trail, the canal itself is due for a rework, and the focus on its future opens the proverbial floodgate to contribute to the master guideline that will be followed for years to come.

“It’s an interesting contest for professional landscape architects because it involves not just a single structure or park but the whole length of the canal,” says Richard, “and we’ve already had lots of inquiries.” Proposals submitted by the March 4 deadline will be evaluated by an eight-member jury chaired by Philippe Lupien, a professor at the École de design de l’UQM as well as an architect, a landscape architect and host of the program Visite libre on Télé-Québec.

Finalists chosen will be given a budget to develop a more detailed practical plan, and the winner, to be announced in July, will be awarded the contract to develop the 20 to 30-year master plan for the canal.

Unique spaces

“It’s architecturally unique, and we are talking about a vision to respect the cultural aspect of the canal and to make it a beautiful place for everyone to enjoy,” says Richard. “We are looking at the canal itself, and also the spaces around it – for things like public artworks or events, there is so much potential.”

Voices will be heard

While the contest is primarily aimed at professionals, there is also a prize of $1000 reserved for the best student entry, says Richard, “…because students have really great ideas.”

And the general public gets to contribute too.

“We’re also running an online survey where anyone can weigh in,” says Richard. “The object is creating a project by the people and for the people of the region, to really reflect their priorities and the memories they want to preserve.”

People are invited to visit mrcvs.ca/en/planning/canaldesoulanges/ for full details on the competition, signup forms, and the public survey on the future of the canal.