For People Who Love Gatineau Park

Yours to Protect?

Report in the Citizen that a “recognized” federal heritage building in Gatineau park is now at a critical juncture. The question, to renovate and try to find a use for it, or to knock it down and re-naturalize the grounds.

The house is small but architecturally interesting and evidently hosted some historical luminaries. A study recommending what should be done is due out in the next few weeks.

I’m not in any position to weigh the arguments this way or that, but I do know that JR Booth’s house at Kingsmere is gone gone gone; now a patch of trees. The NCC did try mightily to find a use for it but in the end knocked it down. I don’t know that we are any better for it being gone and as a piece of history we are poorer. I’m sure the NCC don’t want to obliterate swaths of history, they just don’t have the resources (or don’t allocate the resources) to pay for maintaining history on our behalf. Would people would squawk if money was diverted from trail grooming or Canada Day? I guess people squawk whatever decisions are made; so squawk for the things that matter to you.

As for me, squawk, squawk!

CPAWS Moonlight Snowshoe Challenge

On March 24th, CPAWS Ottawa Valley is having it’s annual Moonlight Snowshoe Challenge in Gatineau Park (at Meech Creek Valley).

Participants are asked to raise at least $100 through sponsorship for the event, and all of the money raised will go towards CPAWS’ efforts to protect forests and wildlife in Canada.

The snowshoeing/hike is about 6km and will take place around 6:30-10:30 on the evening of March 24th. If there is not very much snow or if the snow is packed for the event, snowshoes wont be required so it will just be a hike.

We will be stopping at a camp fire in the forest for hot chocolate and a desert, which will be provided by CPAWS.

This is a great opportunity to get out into the beautiful forest at night to see it from a different prospective, and is a good opportunity to learn about what CPAWS does in the community/Canada to protect parks and wilderness.

Spring Melt

Oh the horror!

The NCC though is putting a brave face on things and promoting spring skiing until there is no snow or until April 15th, whichever comes first.

Ken’s Happy Faces in the Teeth of the Storm

The Kenmore blog has lots of joy (on benches, on trees, on skis many km) from Ken’s stormy outing, including an evocative image of snow screaming across Skyline.

Skied those near-antenna trails myself after the snow had stopped, the wind still howling. Yes Ken, signs of snowmobiles had been obliterated.

Glad I went, as the skiing was as as good as it gets. I’ve been too desk-bound lately, trying to save the world.

Ecological Corridor – Maybe Not So Much

It’s reported by the blog Action Pontiac that efforts by the NCC to augment the naturally protected status of Gatineau Park by encouraging surrounding municipalities to add their own protection to certain lands is meeting with resistance.

According to the report the Municipal Council for Pontiac unanimously rejected the idea saying “these corridors will discourage development of the municipality”, and is against anything that “will be a brake on development.”

What Climate Change Means to the Ski & Snowshoe Season

When Charles Mortureaux bought the shack that founded Camp Fortune in 1920, Ottawa was a snowier place.

It’s not just the old fogies who say we used to get more snow, Environment Canada statistics prove it.

The City of Ottawa has just produced a study of watersheds within its municipal boundaries. Part of this study looks at Ottawa’s climate and part of the review of climate looks at precipitation (as one might expect when examining watersheds).

Check out these two graphs from the study (above and to the right here, click each for enlarged version).

Applying the simple formula that one centimeter of snow equals one millimetre of rain, Figure 3-8 appears to be telling us that in Mort’s day the Experimental Farm was blanketed with almost 2½ metres of snow over the winter.

Do my eyes deceive me or does it look to you as if today we get only something over 1½ metres.

Figure 3-9 shows that even as rain has been increasing in every other season, in winter precipitation has been decreasing. Which is to say the amount of snow falling is falling.

It was 2005 when the NCC’s study warned us that by 2050 there might not be any skiing in Gatineau Park.

Aside – it’s a nice coincidence that Mort worked for what became Agriculture Canada and the data for the City of Ottawa study was collected at the Experimental Farm.

Wildlife Photography Interview

France Rivet and Shelley Ball were good enough to spend time with me discussing
the photographs on display at the Gatineau Park Visitors’ Centre this summer.
Click on the image at left to see the promo poster and listen to them talk about
the exhibit in this four minute video.



NCC Board Meeting Item: Plans and Planning

This is important to all Park users as climbers, geocachers, and hikers have already seen. I would particularly draw your attention to the wording under the section Outdoor Activity Plan.

The Gatineau Park development plans are in response to the Gatineau Park Master Plan (completed in 2005) which determined that the park management would focus first on the preservation of ecosystems and then on recreational activities. It recommended the preparation of plans for the conservation of ecosystems, the conservation of cultural heritage, interpretation, sustainable transportation and outdoor activities.

Ecosystem Conservation Plan / Ecological Corridors:

The project for the identification and preservation of Gatineau Park’s ecological corridors stems from a recommendation in the Ecosystem Conservation Plan. This project is aimed at protecting the park’s biodiversity and ensuring greater robustness in natural environments.

It is currently underway in collaboration with various stakeholders, including municipalities. To date, we have identified 12 potential corridors. A preliminary report is expected this summer and will include a list of these corridors, the desired usage type and tourist potential. The final report is expected for winter 2012 and will include long-term preservation options . It is expected that the NCC will not necessarily proceed with the acquisition of these lands, but agreements with the municipalities and partner groups will allow it to implement these preservation options.

Outdoor Activity Plan

[editor’s note: in the past this has been called the Recreation Management Plan]

The main objective of the Gatineau Park Outdoor Activity Plan (OAP) is to provide consistent planning and intervention frameworks on the outdoor activities, infrastructures and services that will have to be developed, modified or abandoned in order to optimize the visitor’s experience and to maximize the scope of the Gatineau Park Ecosystem Conservation Plan.

The OAP also aims, through a series of concrete measures, to identify target clients, the desired levels and types of outdoor activity offered in the park, mainly according to the conservation objectives, the role and capacity of the recreation areas, and the underlying management principles.

We are now developing the intervention strategies and the action plan that will be presented during public consultations in the fall.

[editor’s note: in the slide presentation shown by Marie Lemay this report was shown with a status of “Final Draft”]

Green Transportation Plan for Gatineau Park

The first step is now completed. It has allowed us to assess the existing situation and to identify transportation issues for Gatineau Park. This analysis was based on, among other things, the information collected during the online public consultation that was completed in winter 2010. In addition, consultations with partners were recently conducted in order to validate the analyses.

The next step will consist in identifying the measures that will help reduce the impacts identified in step 1. The various possible solutions will be developed in collaboration with the partners and will be based on the ideas submitted by the public during the online consultation. Public consultations are also planned in order to discuss the proposed options.

Gatineau Park Cultural Heritage Conservation Strategic Plan

The Gatineau Park Cultural Heritage Conservation Strategic Plan will guide the conservation and interpretation of cultural heritage for the next decade. The first phase of planning presents the vision and guiding principles for the management of cultural heritage in the Park, explores the cultural values associated with Gatineau Park, and determines a thematic framework. We have also developed a methodology and criteria to facilitate the assessment of the Park’s cultural resources. Priorities will be established and an action plan for the conservation and interpretation of the Park’s cultural heritage will be developed.

A heritage experts committee, which includes First Nations representatives, was set up for this project and met on two occasions. Public consultations are planned for the fall .

Communication and Interpretation Plan

The Gatineau Park Communication and Interpretation Plan’s goal is to develop an integrated messaging framework for Gatineau Park. The objective is to provide the public, as well as internal and external Gatineau Park stakeholders, with consistent and cohesive messages that reflect Gatineau Park’s role as the Capital’s conservation park.

A second objective is to provide a messaging approach that will assist Gatineau Park program planners in planning and developing their activities with a view to transforming Gatineau Park visitors into ambassadors for the Park’s conservation messages. A further objective is to create an image of Gatineau Park as a unique messaging tool for Capital messages, and for emphasizing the Capital’s natural, cultural, political and heritage riches. An important output from the development of the Messaging Framework is the development of an interpretive plan for Gatineau Park, which integrates the natural and heritage programming streams.

Your Opinion on Winter Trails Issues

What’s the most important issue to do with the winter trails in Gatineau Park?

Answer these 4 questions.
(survey on winter trails issues)

On January 12 the Gatineau Park Winter Trails Roundtable met. This group includes local ski and outdoor clubs, NCC officials, trail maintenance contractors, ski patrollers and representatives of the park-using public. One of the main tasks of the meeting was to explore which issues should be discussed and in what priority. The Roundtable came up with some priorities but would benefit from other park user’s input.

I’ll report on survey results as they accumulate and make sure the roundtable sees them too. I hope to get a French version of the survey in place as well (but don’t vote twice, okay!).

Rock Climbing Update

Last night the Ottawa Gatineau Climbers’ Coalition held a meeting to allow their membership to react to the latest NCC plan for climbing in Gatineau Park. The NCC is offering a restricted number of routes but wishes for the Coalition to sign a partnership agreement that will enable joint management of the activity.

This morning the Coalition president Eric Grenier was interviewed on CBC’s Ottawa Morning show along with NCC Biologist Catherine Verreault. The audio for that interview is posted at the show’s web page under the heading “Rock Climbing.”

Eric Grenier reported that the Coalition saw itself as having three options:

  1. Accept the conditions offered by the NCC and work with them
  2. Reject the NCC offer but continue to work with the NCC toward better access
  3. Disband the Coalition in the view that it has failed in it’s goal.

He reported that it was the second option that was chosen.  He reiterated the view that has been reported here, that the climbers feel that the NCC has imposed these considerations based on outdated information and without sufficient involvement of the community.

Catherine Verreault spoke second and reported that the escarpment was the most ecologically sensitive and important part of the park, and also that the park is now operating with conservation as a priority. To Grenier’s comment about peer review of the climbing management approach she indicated that the overall conservation plan had been reviewed my outside experts. She acknowledged the quality of the plan put forward by the Coalition and expressed gratitude for the efforts they contributed but she said that some of the ideas couldn’t be taken into account because of the constraints of the Ecosystem Conservation Plan.

The difficulty appears to be that the NCC is operating on a basic principal that human presence in the area is problematic in itself. The climbers on the other hand take the view that their presence is minimal and that best practices now used reduce this even more.  In the past they’ve claimed that the full historical list of climbing routes, approach paths and staging areas constitute about one percent of the escarpment.

When asked questions about the impact of climbing and how that compares with other activities Catherine Verreault said that their studies had not looked at those comparisons because that was not the goal. She said “the goal was to restrict the activity, to be able to protect more the escarpment because any human presence has impacts…”