Admittedly, I have tossed the occasional javelin in the direction of the National Capital Commission (NCC) over the past 20 years. But its time to re-appraise the institution’s culpability in light of decades of relentless public criticism.
Following former NCC Chairman Marcel Beaudry’s calling by providence to a higher purpose, the commission has made progressive strides in managing Canada’s most problematic park.
The park is immersed in our country’s most populous region, with a growing cultural mosaic unfamiliar with park regulations and etiquette which former generations took for granted.
While NCC bashing has become a public preoccupation, is it not time to question our role in the park’s evolution?
Harvesting of wild garlic will soon commence, the yield to be peddled in Ottawa’s Byward Market. Picnic grounds will be booming with sound systems from the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Week-end athletes will pound unauthorized trails into powder, while pole-brandishing geriatrics stab holes along the eroding slopes of Ridge Road.
Drug peddling will blossom at parking lots at dusk, and nudists will begin to congregate at Meech Lake. Climbers will rope off the Eardly Escarpment’s rare Eastern Red Cedar, while ATV-ers continue to winch gates to gain illegal access along Curly Lake Road.
As the Spring Peepers’ chorus emerges in the wetlands along Eardly-Masham Road, marijuana growers will be transplanting their seedlings among the sedge.
With longer evenings, drag racing will commence along the Gatineau Parkway. Gun enthusiasts will be firing 12-gauge and semi-automatic rifles at beer cans balanced among boulders. Mountain bikers will be slicing mud tracks through ever-remote and uncharted regions of the park.
Despite management challenges which outstrip any national or provincial park in Canada, we have the gall, the brass to lay blame on the very institution attempting to safeguard the park from us. The enemy of Gatineau Park are those who feel entitled that it fulfil whatever purpose they desire.
We, as park visitors, pose the greatest threat to Gatineau Parks survival – not the NCC.
Having visited the majority of Ontario’s Provincial Parks during the past decade, I conclude that the management of Gatineau Park is on par or exceeds standards throughout our neighbouring province.
With the multitude of urban problems thrust into the park’s venue from our ever-increasing dysfunctional society, it’s time to acknowledge and commend the work of Gatineau Park planners, maintenance personnel and conservation officers.
The time to gather stones together is well overdue. The greatest threat to the parks ecosystem is those who throw them.