NCC consults Pontiac residents
Mo Laidlaw

On Saturday, 14 June the National Capital Commission (NCC) held a public consultation with residents of the municipality of Pontiac. About 50 people attended at the Marcel Lavigne Community Centre in Luskville, including Mayor Roger Larose, who said he hoped this would be a new partnership, and most of the council. The Assistant director general, Benedikt Kuhn gave a brief introduction, mentioning that Gatineau Park is 45 % of the municipality. Even Lac Philippe and Lac La Pêche are within Pontiac. At the same time the Park cuts us off from the rest of the MRC des Collines. He sees 20 - 30 cars a day at the Luskville Falls car park, and has seen a moose from the town hall. 

It was a surprise to many when Dr Mark Kristmanson, the CEO  of NCC, appointed in February, opened the meeting by asking for people’s concerns and input. The relationship between the NCC and the municipality of Pontiac has not always been friendly, with arguments about snowmobiles using “municipal roads” through Gatineau park, and the lack of a major entrance to the park on the south side, being major sources of friction. Many have felt that the NCC is not interested in Pontiac’s residents.

Eardley-Masham road
Ruby Ewen opened the public input by voicing her concerns about the Eardley-Masham road, and the high volume of heavy truck traffic, speeding and, “endangering drivers and walkers. They used not to use this road.” The road is managed by the ministry of Transport. Mr Larose pointed out that Pontiac contractors have pits in La Pêche, but suggested that speed limits can be revised.

Sheila McCrindle of the Pontiac Equestrian Association echoed Ms Ewen. “Part of the equestrian trail uses the Eardley-Masham road. It must be made safer for non-vehicle traffic.” 

Land acquisition
Jacques Lizotte from the Lac Beauclair area of Pontiac, near Masham, complained about the NCC acquiring land, blocking a municipal road. “You can no longer access Lac William(?) from Lac La Pêche.” Marie Boulet, the director of Gatineau Park assured everyone that the NCC is not extending the current boundaries, but does try and buy properties within the boundaries when they come up for sale. Lizotte thinks that mature trees should be harvested, but Ms Boulet pointed out that in a conservation park, trees manage themselves.

A conservation park
Dr Kristmanson pointed out that if you compare 1970s aerial photos with those of today, much of the free land surrounding green space has been built on. There are two pressures in Gatineau Park: the existing human use of the park, colliding with that of the biologists who want to protect wolves and lynx (which will keep down the deer and beaver populations). Tom Tracey said that beavers are a nuisance and in the past few years caused two route 148 closures when beaver dams burst. “They used to be trapped every year.” Dr Kristmanson said that local knowledge is crucial. If the wolf and lynx population is encouraged they will keep down the beavers, although for beaver management nature needs assistance.

Marie Boulet explained that it is a challenge to achieve a balance between access and protection. Gatineau Park is the most used park in North America. Unofficial trails cause problems, particularly in the ecologically sensitive and fragile escarpment area. She noted that the NCC has worked with rock climbing groups (after trying to ban them) to find possible climbing sites, while protecting the most sensitive areas. This seems to be a success.

Eric Lalonde asked about the relationship between the NCC and the new 100 acre development (Domaine des Chutes) north of the town hall. Mr Larose explained that this is outside Gatineau Park and has been zoned residential since about 1978.

Jean Amyotte clarified that he was talking as a resident and as a member of the Club Quad, “not as a councillor. Chemin Lac Curley is a municipal road, leading from LaPêche to Pontiac. It is now blocked by a flood caused by a beaver dam. The NCC should allow use by ATVs, horses, and people, to encourage tourists and the economy.” Another resident suggested that this road also provides access for firefighters. Dr Kristmanson suggested a work group should study this. 

Gary Lacey, the new Executive director of Capital Stewardship at NCC, said he will set up a consultation committee and arrange a fact-finding tour in August. Richard Jennings, a member of the NCC board and former Aylmer councillor, who lives near ch Terry-Fox / Baillie, said he is available and will join Mr Lacey.

Ms Boulet rounded off the meeting with a list of recent and current NCC projects in the municipality.
- Access to the rock climbing sites while protecting 80 species at risk and their environment (a legal responsibility of the NCC).
- Installing the Ruisseau Chartrand bridge this summer for the horse trail, allowing the trail to be reopened between ch Pilon and the Luskville Falls carpark. (The trail bridge was washed out seven years ago.) 
- Stabilizing the slope at the Church Hill parking lot (Eardley-Masham road). There was a severe land slide two years ago.
- Adding gravel to the entrance road to the Luskville falls parking lot to extend its use in spring and fall.
- Improving the Luskville Falls trail and the signage, this year. People get lost and this encourages unofficial trails. She mentioned the consultation on trail management, specifically looking at adding trails and reducing unofficial trails - check the NCC website.
- The fire tower will no longer be used for communication. There’s a suggestion to build an observation tower here.
- the NCC has some buildings that could be used as kiosks for visitor information. NCC has talked to the mayor about possible sites for these.

If you are interested in joining any of the working committees please contact Ben Kuhn, the assistant director general at:

Mayor Roger Larose, Dr Mark Kristmanson, Benedikt Kuhn, Marie Boulet & Christie Spence.