New group looks to spruce up the Portage waterfront

CALEB NICKERSON
A recently established community group is doing their best to spruce up the village of Portage du Fort, and are currently working on a project to improve their waterfront.
Known as the Harbour Square Rejuvenation committee, the group formed last spring with the aim of improving the town’s waterfront. Local resident Bob Tovee, who used to operate the Bateau Royal restaurant on the corner of rue Main and rue Mill, referred to himself as the groups facilitator and said that the group has really taken off.
“We’ve been doing quite a few things actually, but it’s all related to the harbor front … it’s a park we would like to get together, but it’s also a project to help out the community, so we’ve taken on other projects as well,” he explained.
Tovee said the idea was sparked by a surprise from Mother Nature.
“A few years ago when we had the big flood here, the river was nice enough to deposit a whole pile of sand out front of the main downtown,” he said. “Harbour Square is a name that came back from way back when, in the beginning of the town. Not that many people knew that it was called Harbour Square down here … I looked at it and I saw the potential for having a park, and especially this year with the COVID and everything, people don’t have places to go and things to do, so … to me it’s a no-brainer, let’s fix up the waterfront.”
Though they first met to discuss the potential for a park, they soon found themselves involved in other activities around town. One of the group’s first big projects was to create festive wooden cutouts and place them around town.
“It ended up to be a big success for the town, everybody really appreciated it,” Tovee said. “One of the [committee members] Annette Keller came up with [the idea of] a dinner. I used to run the Bateau Royal here in town, so I do have the commercial kitchen and everything, and it’s something that I always wanted to do in the past when the restaurant was open, so I jumped right on board with it.”
The group managed to prepare and serve 49 local residents Christmas dinner, with drivers delivering the meals right to their doorsteps. The meal was free of charge, but the group collected so many donations that they had money and supplies left over to give to the local food bank.

The Harbour Square rejuvination committee is a recently formed citizen group looking to improve Portage du Fort. Over the holidays, they prepared Christmas dinner for 49 people from the local area and had enough food and money left over to make a donation to Bouffe Pontiac.

“The town was absolutely fantastic,” Tovee said. “They paid for it. It cost almost $300 dollars to provide the meals for everybody. On top of that, we raised $300 for Bouffe Pontiac.”
Tovee said that the group has grown from three or four people at their first meeting to about 20 volunteers, but plenty of other people have helped out depending on the project. On New Year’s Eve, they hosted a firework show for the town. They’ve also done odd jobs for those around town in need.

Among their other community activities over the holidays, the Harbour Square committee put on a New Years firework show, pictured right and led the community in creating festive wooden cut-outs to accompany their enormous Christmas tree.

However, Tovee explained that the long-term goal of the group is to become a non-profit organization and raise enough money to add a walking trial, benches and other amenities to the waterfront area. The proposed trail would start at the end of rue Craig and meander behind the Lady Head monument over to the sandy area at the end of rue Water. Several properties, including one already owned by Tovee, would need to be joined to create the new park area.
“The Harbour Square itself is tying together some properties down by the riverfront there … there’s a whole bunch of things we want to add,” he said.
They hope to add washroom facilities, a gazebo and benches. He said that they had received some initial support from the municipality but they were still working on a formal meeting and discussion of plans. He pointed out that as one of the entrances to the Pontiac, the area could become a hub for both visitors and locals alike.
“Right now we have a beach, it’s overgrown [and] it’s not maintained, [we] want to have people go down there and swim,” he said. “It’s kind of a boost for the community, we want to bring outsiders here as well as service the community itself.”
The group has created a Facebook page and Tovee invited anyone interested in participating to reach out to members of the committee.

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