Storyteller Scroll: September 26th Nature Hike through the Highway A5 Clear-cut

  • Published on Sep 29 2011 |
  • This article is tagged as: storyteller

by Michael Lait

On a beautiful sunny day, 25 people assembled in Gatineau Park’s parking lot #17.We were joined by a great mix of hikers of varied ages and backgrounds. Despite the circumstances in which the event was held, good company seemed enjoyed by all.

Before the hike began, Doug Anions, Chair of the Gatineau Park Committee, addressed the general public for several minutes about the socio-political circumstances surrounding the development of Highway A5, with CPAWS-OV Executive Director, John McDonnell, translating to French. He referred to the Chapter’s noble and consistent history of opposing the highway development from the outset, even during the highway’s initial planning phases in 1974.

At that time, CPAWS-OV (then the Ottawa-Hull chapter of the National and Provincial Parks Association of Canada) published an alternate proposal for highway construction, essentially re-routing the highway to the east-bank of the Gatineau River on account of a number of environmental, economic, and infrastructural concerns. However, under what might be considered a different National Capital Commission-regime than now, the NCC (which manages the park) did not offer a formal response to CPAWS-OV’s submitted proposals. No public consultations were held. Instead, construction of Highway A5 proceeded over the next few decades as planned on the west-side of the Gatineau River, violating Gatineau Park’s only legal boundaries as well as provoking the reaction of public interest groups in the process.

So, when considered overall, the hikers assembled on September 26th were not the first assembled group of people to be holding something of a vigil over the clear-cutting of park land. The beautiful photos of deciduous forest undergoing the beginnings of fall foliage will attest to the full cost borne by the general public. These photos were taken in abundance by many of the hikers, who benefitted from John McDonnell’s knowledge of the numerous, rare tree species the hikers encountered. Contrasting the photos of the forest with those taken of the highway construction will reveal the full extent of the devastation to be associated with this compromise of Gatineau Park’s integrity.

So, although yesterday’s 3.5 hour “Nature Hike” was undertaken with good but somber spirits, CPAWS-OV’s event should truly be regarded as a “nature vigil” – for that group of hikers will be among the last to fully experience and respect the beautiful semi-wilderness of the Brown Lake area. It is just a matter of time before it is “clear-cut, bulldozed, and blasted” – the fate that awaits this approximately 100-acre area of Gatineau Park, a fate that is inextricably tied to the NCC’s decision, made 37 years ago: not to consult the public about what is fundamentally in its interest, the conservation of Gatineau Park.