Final round of consultation coming this fall
By Hunter Cresswell
Like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Gatineau Park’s master plan update process.
“It’s safe to say that we have about a six month delay,” National Capital Commission Quebec Urban Lands and Gatineau Park director Christie Spence said.
The NCC, which manages the 361 square kilometres of Gatineau parklands, originally hoped to finalize its master plan – which is the roadmap of future use and management of park land and assets – this summer.
“We’ve done really extensive public consultation over the past three years,” Spence said.
Now the NCC board of directors will give final approval by January 2021 at the earliest, following a final round of online public consultation in September, after the draft master plan is made public.
Spence said the four main goals of the 2021 master plan include “conservation,” “recreation,” “equitable access” and “sharing.”
The 2005 master plan was the first time it was officially stated that the park is for conservation and the NCC hopes to build on that in the years ahead while the 2021 plan is in effect.
“Equitable access” means, according to Spence, two types of access: literal, meaning reducing cars people use to get to the park in favour of active transport, public transportation or carpooling; and figurative, meaning looking at access fees to make sure visiting the park is affordable for all.
As for “sharing” and “recreation” — that could mean trails become more crowded as usage increases, Spence explained.
“There are so many people and activities [at the park]. We won’t be able to have individual trails for individual activities,” she cautioned.
For those worried that cross-country ski trails will be pock-marked by snowshoes, she allayed fears by clarifying that cross-country ski trails will remain ski-only trails.
Rather snowshoeing and winter biking may share trails instead because “they go together,” Spence added.
Another aspect of the plan is to encourage people to stay on trail to protect the resources that are left in the park. Since 2005, unofficial trails have been carved out by park visitors who go off-trail to get to their destination faster. Now 100 miles of those so called DIY trails have been officially adopted into the trail system, and in response the park is asking people to stay on designated trails.
The 2005 master plan included objectives ranging from environment to recreation and from heritage to management.
“We are certainly due for an update. I think people will have noticed the park has changed over the past 15 years,” Spence said.
Time will tell what the park will look like 15 years from now, but people can weigh in on the master plan once the draft plan is public and the online consultation takes place this September.
For more park information, visit ncc-ccn.gc.ca.