I’m writing to correct four errors that appeared in two articles on the subject of Gatineau Park, published in Le Droit on Saturday, August 22, 2020.
Co-habitation with private residences: It is incorrect to report that Gatineau Park is “the only national park in Canada” where there is co-habitation with private residences. In fact, six national parks, managed by Parks Canada, also have residential properties, and even communities, within their boundaries: Banff (with the historic municipalities of Banff and Lake Louise), Jasper, Yoho, Riding Mountain, Prince Albert and Waterton Lakes.
Acquisition and renaturalization: It is false to state that the National Capital Commission (NCC) has no “land acquisition plan” to consolidate the Park’s environment by renaturalizing private properties. On the contrary, this is a key initiative of the 2005 Gatineau Park Master Plan, which involves prioritizing areas that are important for significant ecosystems and, to the greatest extent possible, focusing primarily on large properties (greater than four hectares). In January 2008, the NCC counted 405 properties covering 600 hectares. Since that time, the NCC has acquired 40 percent of this area in the form of 57 properties representing 238 hectares. Today, just under 0.7 percent of the Park’s area is held by private owners. This initiative will continue for years to come.
Environmental protection and control of lands: Gatineau Park has clear and well-defined geographical boundaries that are recognized by local governments, police and emergency services, community and environmental groups, residents, and visitors. The Park is subject to the National Capital Act, the National Capital Commission Traffic and Property Regulations, and the policies of the Gatineau Park Master Plan, which allow for the expansion of Park boundaries. This management is effective. It has proven successful in this period marked by a high volume of visitation due to the pandemic, during which public health requirements have been added to the need to reconcile the interests of users, neighbouring communities and other stakeholders.
No favouritism: Last Saturday, as Le Droit reported that the NCC favoured private properties, Radio-Canada stated the opposite. Between these two perceptions, there is one certainty: for decades, the NCC has successfully resolved a number of conflicting issues that have arisen with respect to rock climbing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, unofficial trails, the proximity of species at risk and many other subjects. The reason for this success is dialogue.
All are invited to take part in the final round of public consultations on the Gatineau Park Master Plan, which started this week. Also, in the coming months, there will be public consultations to plan upcoming seasons of swimming for adults. This process of continuing to listen and engage the public in consultations explains why this great conservation park, in a near-urban setting, proudly welcomes 600,000 people per year, totalling some 2.6 million visits annually.
Vice-President, Public, Legal and Corporate Affairs
National Capital Commission
Read this letter published in Le Droit on Saturday August 29, 2020 (in French only).