The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 24 no 9, April 2013. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
"We grew up to the sounds of chugging tugboats pulling gigantic booms full of logs, and the friendly waves of the tugboat crews as they often helped us find the best swimming log. Summers were spent trying to keep ourselves upright on the smoothest log, just like the river-men ... and to find the company mark branded on each log end.
But balancing on the booms, jumping across the big chains that linked them, was the most fun of all! .... Margaret Phillips"
On November 27, the tugboat Le Champagne was removed from the shore of the Gatineau River and hauled up a steep hill to its new home in MaryAnn-Phillips Park. This boat is precisely the same tug that we find on the Cantley logo. The raising of the boat was the result of three years of effort led by Robert Grenier and Margaret Phillips, among others. Le Champagne has a colourful history, both old and new.
The Cantley logo was the result of a contest in 1989, at the beginning of the new municipality. The winner used Le Champagne as the centrepiece because it represents so clearly Cantley's heritage.
Originally built in 1950 at the famous Owen Sound, Ontario shipyard, Russel Brothers, the tugboat Le Champagne moved "pitoune" on the Gatineau River for more than 40 years. The Municipality bought the tug for $5,000 with the end of the Gatineau log drive in 1996.
And so it sat, parked in a little bay below today's Mary-Ann-Phillips Park. There the tug became the victim of vandalism, collected garbage, and was filled with a polluting mix of diesel oil and rainwater.
Rescuing the tug was a long and complex process. First it had to be drained safely of its potentially polluting mix. Next, after a year of planning, it was removed from the shore and towed up the hill by two 6-ton bulldozers with winches. It was dragged to a 10 x 4 x 1 meter hole in the play area of the park.
This is not the first Gatineau River tug to be rescued, and some have become popular play structures. Others were restored simply as a commemoration of our logging heritage.
So for a cost of less than $5,000 and hundreds of hours of volunteer time, an important piece of Cantley's history has been secured and is being integrated into the community's life. Next steps are to re-attach its big front-end rake, clean it up, paint it in its original colours and secure it as a play structure with an interpretive panel. Le Champagne will then get a new life and give a new dimension to the park.