Petition call for more vehicle access to Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park has opened for the summer season, but many of the roads leading to popular destinations have limited access to vehicles. Some residents argue that it is unfair and have started a petition calling for the roadways to reopen to vehicles.

At the onset of the pandemic, the National Capital Commission made the decision to restrict traffic on the roadways through Gatineau Park, mainly due to the surge of visitors - and this year will be the same.

Popular points of interest like Pink Lake, the Champlain and Huron lookouts, Waterfall and King Mountain will only be accessible by vehicle on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 30 minutes after sunset.

Ala’ Qadi has started a petition to allow for more vehicle access to the popular park, saying the decision to close the parkways to vehicles unfairly restricts hikers, families with young children and those with mobility issues. 

"For instance, you want to go to Pink Lake, you have hiked 7.7 kilometres," says Qadi. "We need access to the access points. We can’t have favouritism against one group that uses the pavement of the park, not the inside of the park over other groups and every other user.”

Catherine Verreault, NCC director of Quebec urban lands and Gatineau Park, says the plan to restrict traffic in the park has been in the works since 2015, but admits it has been a polarizing issue. 

"We’re looking towards a future with fewer cars in the park," says Verreault. "It’s a new way of accessing the park and yes, we have to adjust but it’s the way we should go from an environmental perspective, from a wildlife perspective. Gatineau Park is a conservation park."

Verreault says new this year, the park will offer electric bike rentals as well as free electric four-wheel scooter rentals for those who need it. For now, the program will be available at Relais Plein Air, which has parking and is also accessible by public transportation.

Beginning June 25, there will also be a weekend shuttle bus service with eleven stops - some, which are in the downtown areas of Ottawa and Gatineau and throughout the park, where cars are currently restricted. 

"It’s not just replacing people accessing with their personal vehicle, it gives more access to people," says Verreault.

However, Qadi argues that the shuttle service as well as bike and scooter rentals are not enough.

"There is still no access for anyone during the week where so many people would want to access the park itself, not the pavement, except Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m.," he says. "They have absolutely failed the recreational user, they have failed the hikers, they failed disabled people and if they want to have a compromise it has to be equal access."