Gatineau Park’s New Master Plan

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On August 28, after three years of consultations, the National
Capital Commission (NCC) released its draft Gatineau Park Master Plan for public review.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On August 28, after three years of consultations, the National
Capital Commission (NCC) released its draft Gatineau Park Master Plan for public review.
The NCC website explains the Plan is a document “that guides the long-term planning, use and management of Gatineau Park. It is reviewed every 10 years, to ensure it takes into account past experience, new issues and regulations, and international best practices in the management of natural environments.”
Everyone is invited to read and comment upon it: (English: bit.ly/2YVmasz; French bit.ly/3gNMD1s). Due to COVID-19, comments are welcome online via the NCC website until September 20th (bit.ly/3lH6kvx). Members of the Advisory Committee will meet soon via Zoom to discuss recommendations.
My participation
I am serving on the Advisory Committee, joining representatives of special interest groups (e.g. Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Ottawa Valley Chapter), historians, park residents, and others. My property borders Gatineau Park; plus, part of the northern portion lies within the newest Park boundary created by an Order of Council in 1997. I’m pleased that my property also falls under the protection of Québec’s Green Zone (bit.ly/3bjOMk0).
New Plan’s goals
The Master Plan’s main goal is the conservation of nature. Balancing this are the other two aims of offering people experiences in nature via environmentally friendly outdoor activities, and ensuring public access is more equitable and sustainable.
The fourth goal is engagement and collaboration, which supports the first three goals “by engaging everyone to ensure the Park’s longevity” (p. 38).
Conservation
So, what is the NCC planning by way of habitat protection? First, to encourage conservation of ecologically sensitive areas, the more than 300 km of unofficial trails will be vastly reduced, and with some being made official, visitors are asked to remain on official trails, keep dogs leashed, and otherwise respect park ecosystems.
Traffic and parking congestion are increasingly serious issues, and
public transportation doesn’t provide efficient access to and into the Park, so energy-efficient, less polluting shuttle buses could provide more equitable, sustainable transportation for everyone.
The NCC currently owns some land bordering Gatineau Park and its intention is to expand the Park’s boundaries to include and protect these properties. Another plus for conservation.
An ongoing issue in the park is the building of private homes (where land isn’t protected as it is with Québec’s Green Zone).
As we can read in the March 27, 2007 Senate discussions regarding this point (Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources; bit.ly/3jzsJJ9), what can be done about private ownership – and severing land, building more homes – remains a heated discussion.
To me, this is where this Plan’s fourth goal kicks in: engagement and collaboration. Is it possible, as in Banff National Park’s Town of Banff, to have a Park Community Plan? Is it possible to engage property owners within and bordering the park to engage in dialogue with the NCC to develop a vision for more sustainable activities? (Banff’s strategy: bit.ly/31O1qVp)
Beyond boundaries: ecological corridors
Ecological corridors surrounding the Park permit wildlife to move freely in and outside it – to such areas as the Ottawa River. Most of the properties within the corridors are privately owned, although some belong to the NCC. In all instances, however, this Plan recognizes their importance to wildlife.
While speaking with Christie Spence, the NCC’s Director, Québec Urban Lands and Gatineau Park, about these corridors and the Park boundaries, she emphasized the importance of the Plan’s fourth goal:
“We can all agree that we love connecting to nature in Gatineau Park, but with the increasing pressures facing the park, the NCC cannot protect it on its own. As much as we each feel a personal connection to this special place, we also each need
to assume some responsibility for keeping it healthy and wild. I look forward to expanding our work with our partners, the indigenous community, and our many users to protect what we all value so much, so our kids and their kids can enjoy the Park they way we’ve been able to.”
What of this Plan?
Regardless of several thorny issues, this new Master Plan gets my general nod of approval because it emphasizes conservation, while recognizing the public need for sustainable outdoor activities.
Please express your concerns and suggestions regarding the Park. Read the Plan and contribute your opinions online.