NCC is turning Gatineau Park into a garbage dump

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by admin on December 22, 2010

By Jean-Paul Murray

The Gatineau Park Trail Trash Debacle confirms that the National Capital Commision is rank with confusion and mismanagement.
Sifting through 257 pages of access to information documents on the subject not only supports that observation, it also fills in many of the missing details – while highlighting a disturbing NCC leadership vacuum.

First, the documents I reviewed confirm NCC guidelines don’t include use of garbage for resurfacing park trails. According to section 4.3 of the contract between Demsis and the NCC, “Trail surfaces must be as even as possible, free of debris, and must not present any safety risk to users.”
If the contract says surfaces must be free of debris, then why did Demsis dump garbage on them, and why did Trow Engineering and the NCC justify this?
Second, the NCC only conducted a partial test of the contaminated soil spread along Trail No. 1 – and not the more detailed study recommended by its own environmental engineer.

According to the documents consulted, Trow Engineering submitted two proposals. The first would have cost $13,765. But the NCC rejected it, either because it was too costly or because it would have been too revealing. Instead, the NCC settled for a sketchy $5,334.53 pilot test to justify what is clearly unjustifiable: use of garbage to resurface a park trail.
So, not only was the study’s methodology deeply flawed, it was also only a shallow exercise, leaving many questions unanswered.
Third, the access documents reveal that Luskville’s Raymond Belisle Cartage provided the contaminated soil mix dumped on Trail No. 1.
Moreover, it turns out that the firm “has been providing gravel and top soil to contractors who carry out work in Gatineau Park for 10 years.” Which leads to the obvious question: Has every park trail resurfaced over that time been laced with contaminants?
I found garbage and glass along five trails, and I suspect there are more. So the growing body of evidence suggests the problem reaches far into the park, contrary to NCC claims that it’s “isolated.”

Fourth, and finally, the access documents underscore the near complete absence of NCC CEO Marie Lemay from the debate.
Crisis and controversy demand leadership, courage and vision; yet Lemay is seen only hiding from the problem, refusing to grant the Ottawa Citizen a request for an interview, and consoling NCC officials for being taken to task for spreading misinformation.

Something is deeply rotten with the NCC’s senior management. Time for heads to roll.

Jean-Paul Murray is chair of the Gatineau Park Protection Committee. A more detailed version of this article, along with pictures, is available at http://outdoorottawa.com.