Gatineau Park is one of the largest parks in the Ottawa Valley, stretching across more than 361 kms². Parts of Gatineau Park are accessible from downtown Ottawa-Gatineau and visitors can enjoy unparalleled recreational activities year-round on over 200 kms of hiking and ski trails and 125 kms of biking trails.
Gatineau Park has the greatest diversity of habitats of any park in Quebec, while being home to the largest number of endangered species.
We were founded in 1970 specifically to fight for the protection of Gatineau Park. Over 50 years ago, the National Capital Commission’s development plan would have created a series of roads and hotels in the middle of the park, destroying this refuge for endangered species and people alike.
We’ve been fighting to make Gatineau Park a “real park” by amending the National Capital Act to grant the park the same protections as those afforded to national parks across Canada.
In March 2023, Pontiac Member of Parliament, Sophie Chatel, rose in the House of Commons to present an initial batch of 600 signatures on our petition calling on the federal government to grant Gatineau Park legislative protection, which includes boundaries set in an Act of Parliament.
While the government is beginning to recognize the importance of protecting this iconic landscape, Gatineau Park still needs your help.
Tell decision makers just how important Gatineau Park is to all Canadians. Sign the petition now.
Species at risk need protected nature to roam and thrive
Gatineau Park lies in the transition zone between the Boreal Forest of the Canadian Shield to the north and the eastern temperate forest of the St. Lawrence Lowlands to the south. This means species found in one or the other zone both call Gatineau Park home, resulting in a unique blend of animals and plants not found elsewhere in Canada.
The lack of a comprehensive land-use strategy for the surrounding lands and a buffer zone between the Gatineau Park and adjacent development is one of the greatest urbanization and development threats facing the park.
This means when development is allowed to take place right next to the park boundary, species avoid the outer edges due to habitat fragmentation and human presence. This shrinks the size of the park in terms of its value to species and even forces larger animals such as moose to enter suburban Gatineau, putting themselves and community members at risk.
Urbanization and development threaten to destroy this vital habitat for close to 90 endangered plant and 60 endangered animal species, including the least bittern, American ginseng, one of Quebec’s largest populations of wild leek, the rare juniper hairstreak butterfly, and others depending on it for food, mating, and survival.
Gatineau Park provides habitats for 27% of all plant and vertebrate animals found in Canada, and more than 40% of those found in Quebec and Ontario. These species depend on protected biodiversity to survive long-term.
Gatineau Park boosts the local economy
Gatineau Park is the second most visited park in Canada, welcoming over 2.6 million visitors per year.
Visitors can indulge in the diverse recreational opportunities, including 165 kms of hiking trails, 90 kms of cycling trails, 14 picnic areas, six public beaches, two campgrounds, and more. In winter, visitors can enjoy 200 kms of cross-country ski trails, 25 kms of snowshoe trails, a downhill ski area and a biathlon training centre.
Visitors to this iconic landscape support Ottawa Valley’s economy through tourism revenue to local businesses. According to the National Capital Commission (NCC), Gatineau Park visitor-related spending is over $180 million per year. Over 70% of this spending is on restaurants, sports and recreation equipment, and shopping.
Plus, it takes a healthy labour force to keep up with this demand. Municipal and provincial government jobs and public-sector roles are created to keep up with demand, spurring economic growth in nearby communities. The NCC estimates the GDP impact of Gatineau Park to be over $240 million, with the park providing 4,728 full time equivalent jobs.
Near-urban parks are vital for climate action
Nature-based climate solutions are efforts to sustainably manage or restore natural ecosystems to support climate action while simultaneously benefiting human well-being and biodiversity.
Efforts to reduce harm caused by human activity, such as the urbanization and construction development in and surrounding Gatineau Park, can also reduce pressure on the park’s ecosystem and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Preserving Gatineau Park’s biodiversity means having an urban forest sprawling over 361 km² that reduces:
- Pollution: air pollution impacts our health and urban forests provide cleaner air through carbon sequestration, reducing air pollutants (one large tree can even absorb up to 150 kg of carbon dioxide a year).
- Flood risks: urban forests absorb excess water, protecting nearby communities by slowing the rate of sewer and drainage systems overflowing.
Nature supports our mental and physical well-being
Accessible wilderness supports mental and physical health.
Over 80% of Canadians now live in urban centres, making it difficult to access nature. Plus, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health issue by age 40, and one in seven youth will struggle with mental health.
Connecting to wilderness supports:
- Thriving mental health: time spent in nature is scientifically proven to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, making it crucial to protect Gatineau Park as it’s a pillar in the Ottawa Valley community.
- Health equality: lower income neighborhoods have less access to green space, which contributes to overall health. An intact urban forest accessible from downtown Ottawa-Gatineau can contribute to breathing cleaner air and lower stress levels.
- Heart health in an aging population: about one in 12 Canadian adults live with heart disease, the second leading cause of death in the nation. Exercise in nature helps improve heart health, contributing to overall good physical health later in life.
Our community needs accessible nature now to support mental and physical health needs.
Tell the government your community can’t wait any longer for Gatineau Park to become “a real park.”
- Our position on the major conservation issues facing Gatineau Park.
- Read our submission on the draft 2020 Gatineau Park Master Plan here.
- Read our brief on the July 2020 draft Gatineau Park Master Plan. Click here.
- Sign and share our petition calling on the House of Commons to amend the National Capital Act to grant Gatineau Park the same protections as those afforded to our National Parks. You can return your completed petitions to the CPAWS-OV office or to any federal Member of Parliament. Click here.
- Press Release – CPAWS-OV congratulates Hull-Aylmer Member of Parliament, Greg Fergus, for tabling our petition calling on the House of Commons to grant Gatineau Park the same protections as our national parks. Click here.
- Read the Government response to our previous petition here
- Read our Response to the March 2017 NCC Gatineau Park Visitor and Economic Impact Study
- Read our Position Statement! Learn more about our recommendations to protect Gatineau Park: Click here
- Show your support on your next hike! Get your “Make it a Real Park” t-shirt. click here to visit our online store
- We’re on Instagram! Follow @makeitarealpark for great photos and recent updates
- Ottawa Citizen (Aug 2016): Lopoukhine: Let’s make Gatineau Park a real park
- ICI Radio-Canada (Jul 2016): Le débat sur la protection du parc de la Gatineau est relancé
- Green Living Ottawa (Mar 2016): Help Protect Gatineau Park
- Metro News Ottawa (Jan 2016): Group renews effort to make Gatineau Park a national park
Did you know? Gatineau Park is at risk!
You may be surprised to find out that Gatineau Park is a park in name only.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Gatineau Park. Rich in biodiversity, Gatineau Park is comprised of 361 square kilometers of wilderness, 118 rare or endangered species, and 50 lakes! Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the opportunities that Gatineau Park provides for all sorts of activities, including hiking, cross-country skiing, camping, paddling, and rock climbing.
Most of Gatineau Park belongs to the federal government and the National Capital Commission (NCC) manages the land, but it does not have the permanent legal protection provided to “real” national parks.
Without governing legislation and full parliamentary oversight, the same oversight given to all our Canadian national parks under the National Parks Act, portions of the park will continue to be subjected to use for housing development, the construction of shopping centres, and the creation of new roads as in the past.
Gatineau Park has the potential to become a core protected area within a much larger region that protects natural ecosystems and maintains viable populations of all native species. It is important that the lands surrounding the Park are properly managed to allow for corridors and connections with other natural areas.
CPAWS-OV is calling on Parliament to:
- Establish Gatineau Park in legislation and dedicate it to future generations
- Ensure that the priority of the Park’s management be conservation and ecological integrity;
- Stipulate that changes to Gatineau Park boundaries can only be made by parliamentary approval, as is the case for Canada’s national parks
CPAWS-OV is calling on the municipalities which border Gatineau Park to:
- actively participate in the protection of Gatineau Park
- consider the ecological integrity and benefits of having a healthy, beautiful park in their backyard when planning development
- create wildlife corridors and buffer zones in their areas of jurisdiction
CPAWS-OV is calling on the NCC to:
- Manage the park as an IUCN Class II protected area
- Stop all new roads and development inside the Park
- Acquire critical or ecologically sensitive lands around the park to serve as a buffer zone
- Work with local municipalities to define and establish viable ecological corridors between the park and surrounding lands