Interviewing Gatineau Park’s New Director
Catherine Verreault was appointed Director of Gatineau Park and Quebec Urban Lands in November 2021. Previously, she was the Park’s Senior Manager, Land and Natural Resources Management. I asked her to introduce herself.
CV: It’s a privilege to be the Director of Gatineau Park. I have a master’s degree in Biology and have been at the NCC for over 17 years. I am enthusiastic about putting my knowledge and experience into protecting the Park’s ecological integrity and providing recreational and cultural experiences for visitors.
KF: Gatineau Park isn’t protected under the Canada National Parks Act and its boundaries aren’t established or managed by federal statute. (The National Capital Act doesn’t define its boundaries.) Will you be working to have the Park protected under both Acts?
CV: As stated in the Gatineau Park Master Plan, the NCC wants to renew its legal framework to provide better suited modern powers to achieve the Park’s conservation objectives. The framework would specify its boundaries and make a clear statement of its conservation mission, and the NCC’s responsibility to protect this conservation park. We will work with partners from other agencies on this project. The protection and management of Gatineau Park will be carried out under the authority conferred by the National Capital Act and regulations adopted thereunder. Since Gatineau Park is a federal park managed by the National Capital Commission, it cannot be protected by the Canada National Parks Act.
KF: Will the NCC survey the Park’s boundaries? Neither the public nor adjacent property owners fully understand their precise location.
CV: It is in our plan to survey Park boundaries in the coming years and install missing signage. We will contact private landowners in the Park to raise awareness about best conservation practices for private properties.
KF: Gatineau Park’s trail network has official but also unofficial trails. Why is the NCC closing some official trails and reopening/redefining others?
CV: Gatineau Park offers some 200 km of official trails for recreational activities. There’s an even larger network of unofficial trails which continues to expand and has a major environmental impact. It fragments habitats and reduces their area and quality, thus threatening species at risk, and present risks to public safety. The Responsible Trail Management project aims to reduce the environmental impact of unofficial trails, while enhancing Gatineau Park’s recreational offering. (https://bit.ly/3JdwlNt)
KF: How can Park staff monitor unofficial trail use and encourage visitors to use official trails?
CV: Gatineau Park staff, conservation officers, and volunteers work together to raise awareness on the impact of unofficial trail use. Unofficial trails are being naturalized, and signage will be installed. Open and closed trails and information on the impact of fragmentation will be communicated to the public. This project wouldn’t be possible without the valued support of volunteers, who have contributed 3,380 hours since 2018.
KF: Private property adjacent to the Park links wildlife to woodlands and rivers. Will you work with property owners to educate them about the importance of such ecological corridors?
CV: Communication and collaboration are key! The NCC is working with its partners to protect ecological corridors linking the Park to other natural areas. On our recent blog, (bit.ly/3NUZvoc) private landowners can discover how they can help protect ecological corridors and facilitate the movement of plants and animals.
KF: Access to Gatineau Park is challenging for many people. Will there be new shuttles to take people into the Park this summer?
CV: Equitable and sustainable access is one of the four goals of Gatineau Park. To reduce vehicle traffic in the park and improve the experience of visitors and environmental quality, we are launching a free shuttle pilot project this summer. The shuttle will run on weekends departing from downtown Ottawa and from the Visitor Centre, with stops on popular destinations along the parkways.
KF: Thank-you for your time and for introducing us to you and some of your main issues, Ms. Verreault.