One step closer to a national park

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Added: Wed, 09/11/2019 - 2:17pm
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Joe Kowalski spoke about the details concerning the creation of a “national” (provincial) park in the Lafontaine Islands area of the Ottawa River at Garvin's Chute in Île-du-Grand-Calumet.

Deborah Powell

ILE-DU-GRAND-CALUMET – “This is the only thing in the Pontiac capable of attracting really large numbers of people,” said Joe Kowalski, referring to the Lafontaine Islands between Ile-du-Grand-Calumet and the Ontario mainland, where he hopes to see a Québec national park established. Kowalski spoke to a small group of elected officials and local media at the Garvin’s Chute site during a tour of the area on September 5, one of many scenic spots in the area of Rocher Fendu to continue the momentum kicked off with a well-attended public meeting in October 2018 at the Campbell's Bay RA Centre.
Although well-known to river sport enthusiasts, most people have never seen the natural beauty of the area as access is limited to rough private roads; to fully appreciate the area, it must be reached by experienced canoers or kayakers.
Kowalski has long dreamed of changing that by establishing a park and building bridges to allow for foot, bike, ATV and snowmobile access.
Serge Newberry, mayor of Ile-du-Grand-Calumet, is also particularly interested in the project and was a force behind establishing a MRC committee to work on the concept and further its promotion. Joining Newberry on the committee
is Maurice Beauregard, Campbell's Bay’s mayor; Alice Meilleur Pieschke, Calumet councilor; Kim Lesage, MRC Pontiac civil engineer; Kowalski, President of Wilderness Tours; and Alastair Baird, manager of The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association, Ontario.
“The Committee is ready to go to Québec City with this,” claimed Kowalski, who says he will find the money to build the access bridges if Québec will declare Lafontaine Islands a national park.
“We need to support these plans in order to accelerate the process,” said MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller, noting the need for infrastructure not only to attract tourists, but to keep them in the region longer.
The islands are located on Québec public land, which is under the management of the MRC Pontiac and are zoned for recreational use. The easiest access is from Ontario where there is also an existing network of hiking and biking trails. Kowalski owns about 6,000 acres on both sides of the proposed park, including the points where access bridges are planned.