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the view that has been reported here, that the climbers feel that the NCC has imposed these considerations based on outdated information and without sufficient involvement of the community.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…”