• Published on Jul 12 2011 |
  • This article is tagged as: storyteller

By Jennifer Gautreau

It was more than a century ago when our eccentric tenth prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, bought some land in the Gatineau Hills. The purchase of land on Kingsmere Lake was the beginning of an almost 50 year love affair with the serenity and beauty of what was to become his home. He became a fierce protector of the area and his government was responsible for establishing the Gatineau Park as we know it today. He fought to save the area from logging and development.

This year I wanted to celebrate our nation’s birthday but not with the crowds on Parliament Hill. My family and I spent a quiet Canada Day at MacKenzie King’s lovely estate in the Gatineau Park.  We had some birthday cake and listened to a pipe and drum band, with other people looking for a similar experience. As we wandered around the property, I was struck by its beauty, as I always am whenever I’m in the park. As we walked the two kilometre Waterfall Trail, every cliché describing a forest ran through my mind: sun-dappled meadows, majestic trees, babbling brooks. Everywhere I looked were the ingredients for an idyllic environment worth protecting. And I was thankful that this natural space was available to all of the people of Canada.

Mackenzie King had the passion and foresight required to ensure that laws were in place to save what he so loved. Walking among the Abbey Ruins, looking at Diana’s Glade, his romanticism is at play all over the estate. It’s easy to see why he wanted to keep this place, and all others in the area, as pristine as possible. As much as logging and natural resources defined the early years of this region, Mackenzie King had the vision to know that it could also lead to the desecration of his beloved forests.

Over a century later we are still fighting for the same things as Mackenzie King. As CPAWS-OV reports there is much work to be done. Shifting park boundaries allows for the expansion of roads and highways and the building of new residential and commercial developments, which threatens the ecosystems not only outside the park but also within the park. Our collective voices need to be raised to protect what is truly a national treasure. For foreign tourists the park represents a quintessential Canadian landscape. For Canadians, it is a representation of our rapidly disappearing natural places.

Because the park does not have national park status it is not permanently protected like other national parks. I felt privileged to be able to spend Canada Day in such a historically significant and stunning natural space.  I would hate to think that my children may not be able to enjoy the park in the same way on future Canada Days. CPAWS-OV has many campaigns and one of them is to save Gatineau Park.  You can read about some background on the campaign and ways you can help here.

I would like to think that this ecologically significant and stunning landscape will be around for many future generations. Mackenzie King fought hard for this area and hopefully it wasn’t in vain. As my children caught frogs in a stream and threw rocks at a waterfall, I felt very lucky to be in such a place. It is a truly special haven, something that should never be taken for granted.