The NCC recently released a draft version of the a new Gatineau Park trail network, designed to eliminate the sprawling unofficial trail network that has grown to 50% larger than the 200km of official trails and is damaging sensitive ecosystems in the Park.
The new trail network, which incorporates 110km of unofficial trails into the official network and closes the remaining 220km of unofficial trails, will be finalized by the Fall and then rolled out over the next 3-5 years.
The NCC analyzed the full 330km of unofficial trails on a variety of measures – experiential, environmental, and logistical – to determine which trails were to be kept and which would be axed.
Since the rollout of these trails will be done sector by sector, let’s look at what that actually means for the four different areas of Gatineau Park.
The southern most point of the park is totally littered with small unofficial trails – almost every street has it’s own entrance to the Park. The new trail network includes several entrances but closes most. It also eliminates a number of trails that the NCC deemed to have duplicate or no experiential value.
However a few new loops will be made official:
- a new “interesting” loop near Chemin de la Galène, but several others here will be closed
- two requested loops near Chelsea: one loop connecting Chemin Solitude to Trail #15, and the other local favourite, “Brazilian”.
The NCC also focused on trails that complemented and connected to the existing network, including #66 – a long trail connecting north to the Gatineau Parkway and beyond.
Central Sector / Meech Lake
This sector had fewer unofficial trails than the southern sector, and most were longer trails connecting to different areas of the official network.
- The central sector of the new Gatineau Park trail network adds some trails in the “Meech Valley”, the area north of Meech Lake. These new trails create a variety of routes between P16 and P11, but eliminated a popular trail that split off the Gatineau Parkway close to P8 because they found it environmentally infeasible and too difficult to maintain.
- The NCC has also connected the northernmost part of the Camp Fortune trails to Trail #1 with a few trails that look like they may have great views off the Eardley escarpment.
- The old trail #10 connecting Trail #1 in the south to Trail #54 the northern sector near Lac Philippe.
Northern Sector / Lac Philippe
This is where it gets really good 🙂 This sector has seen the most growth in unofficial mountain bike (and snowshoe) trails over the past few years.
In the Wakefield area, the NCC is keeping a handful of MTB and snowshoe trails near Trail #72 and the “Bench” trail off of Trail #53. The NCC described these as “newer trails, but providing a really good experience for the users”. Also of note is the relative lack of sensitive habitats in the area.
Northwest / Lac LaPêche Sector
This is where the NCC has pulled the plug on new trails, basically removing all of the unofficial trails in this sector.
The area around Lac LaPêche constitutes the largest, intact, non-bisected ecosystem in Gatineau Park, and as such the NCC considers this sector an anchor for ecological sustainability in the long term. They have been pretty clear they don’t intend to allow any trails through this green space.
That’s about all we know so far. When they first announced the new trailmap, the mentioned that only 50km of the 110km had been officially approved for new trails. The remaining 60km required some further environmental analysis, but they stressed that they were virtually certain the final map would be essentially what they presented.
Now we wait until the Fall, when the NCC will release the official, final version of the new Gatineau Park trailmap for public consultation.