NCC trail repairs in Gatineau Park take environmentally wrong turn

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by admin on October 6, 2010

The Editor,

The Ottawa Valley Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-OV) has a long and proud history of providing input into the management of parks and protected areas.

Following up on the articles (Low Down, Sept. 29 edition)  regarding the soil mix used on Trail No. 1 in Gatineau Park, I decided to walk the trail and I did find shards of glass and other debris.

If a cyclist’s tire was cut by such a shard, particularly on that suicidal hill, an accident could be absolutely horrendous.

There are many reasons to be concerned and we need many answers from the NCC, such as:

1. CPAWS-OV wonders why this work is being done. We are told the Gatineau Park trails are for general use. But Trail No. 1 has such an elevated semi-circular surface in the centre it is not even easy to walk along and it is easier to walk in the ditch. And this is “general” use? Wow! I also understand the Burma Trail has been “developed,” and some other places. What is their condition?
2. The cost of this work is covered by taxpayers. That’s all Canadians! Skiers pay for trails to be maintained, but cyclists don’t pay for similar passes. What is so special about cyclists? We believe there should be recreational opportunities in the park but we also believe in fair treatment. We need to know how much we are paying for this.

3 .Why has so much soil been transported into the park? It is becoming increasingly common to construct and repair trails using materials found on site, working with the topography of the area, so as to avoid the impact of hauling foreign materials into a natural area. That is how the trails are maintained at Foret La Blanche Ecological Reserve near Mayo, Quebec. I understand all the trails there are in much better condition than those in Gatineau Park. Transporting material damages the ecosystem and leads to higher maintenance costs over time.

4. Furthermore, wide, gravelled trails cause habitat fragmentation and lead to higher speeds for cyclists which would result in other users feeling uncomfortable hiking along the trails – since they are for “general” use – both dangerous and causing a general loss of the wilderness experience.

5. The Master Plan for Gatineau Park reports, “It is important to maintain recreational experiences that respect the environment.” With all the best intentions of the National Capital Commission, it would appear the NCC has now gone beyond this intention.

We hope other members of the public will also ask for an explanation. That is how we can ensure the park remains ecologically sound for many years to come.

Muriel A. How

Chelsea, Quebec

Ed. note: Muriel How is Chair of the Gatineau Park Committee Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society (Ottawa Valley Chapter)

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