Planned trail closures ruffles feathers
The clock is ticking for the network of unofficial trails that spiderweb through Gatineau Park.
This may seem like good news, but it’s been decried by some residents in Chelsea.
“They’ve cut out the locals accessing the park there, or they tried — we still do it,” Meriel Beament Bradford told the Low Down.
For decades, locals have carved small footpaths at intersections along Chemin Notch to Gatineau Park Trail 79. Beament Bradford and a group of about 25 neighbours came together after signs popped up along the unofficial trails in summer 2021 about their imminent closure.
Beament Bradford practically grew up using these trails and still uses them nearly everyday. In 1994, she bought and moved into the Chemin Notch home her parents built in 1970. She remembers when the land, which the unofficial trails run across, was unforested farmland and before Trail 79 was a number.
“We’re the semi-stewards of the land and we were pretty upset,” she said, adding that nearby residents who walk the small trails pick up trash and are respectful of the land.
“I think there was a lot of shock when the signs were going up,” said Coun. Kimberly Chan, who represents this area.
In February 2021, the National Capital Commission, the Crown corporation that manages Gatineau Park, published the park’s 2020 master plan, which has been in the works since 2017, with objectives including: improving habitats, protecting ecological corridors that connect it to other undeveloped, natural areas of the region, and closing unofficial trails.
“How can we say that using these paths isn’t better for the environment,” Beamont Bradford asked.
“The unofficial trail network causes habitat fragmentation, reduces the quantity and quality of habitats, and threatens species at risk. They also pose a risk to public safety,” NCC strategic communications senior manager Dominique Huras wrote in an email to the Low Down. She said that the commission’s responsible trail management program will integrate 100 kilometres of unofficial trails into the Gatineau Park’s official trail system, but restore the other unofficial trails. Just down the road from the unofficial trails, at the intersection of Mine and Notch roads, is an official entrance to Trail 79. There’s an active transport shoulder along Chemin Notch that people could use to walk down to the official trail entrance, but there’s an issue with that, Beamont Bradford said.
“Have you tried walking that when a bike comes 20 km/h or more at you,” she asked.
Beamont Bradford said that she’ll walk the road when it’s too icy, but speeding road bikers make it near impossible to walk along the road in the summer.
“I prefer walking in the woods,” she said.
Beamont Bradford said that she and her neighbours have reached out to the NCC for a possible solution. She said that she would like to see the unofficial trail near Chemin Dunn become an official, walking-only trail.
Huras said that a closure plan for unofficial trails in this area is being finalized now and work should start in the fall. The commission will share the plan when it’s finalized, she said