Turning Gatineau Park into a national park managed by Parks Canada would cost taxpayers a "significantly more" each year than the amount being spent on the park now by the National Capital Commission, says a government memo obtained by CBC News.
"Simply transferring the operating budget for the Park from the NCC to Parks Canada would not be sufficient," said the document dated April 21 obtained through an access to information request.
The NCC, which currently has responsibility for the 36,000-hectare park, is the agency that manages federal properties within the Ottawa-Gatineau area.
IUCN definition of Category II protected area (National Park)
Natural area of land and/or sea, designated to (a) protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems for present and future generations, (b) exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to the purposes of designation of the area and (c) provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible.
The memo also states that the government is not considering making Parks Canada responsible for Gatineau Park.
The document was written by Parks Canada CEO Alan Latourelle in response to calls from activists with the Canadian Park and Wilderness Society to transform Gatineau Park, which is mostly owned by the federal government, into a national park.
The predicted higher costs under Parks Canada management are caused by the standards that national parks must meet under guidelines set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, including maintaining the "ecological integrity" of the park.
Private property in park a challenge: memo
The memo said maintaining the ecological integrity of Gatineau Park would be a challenge due to the increasing roads and private property in and around the park and growing demands by users such as mountain bikers and snowmobile clubs.
If the park were to become a national park, more money would be needed to buy private land within the park and step up regulation and enforcement of its use, the memo said.
When CBC called Parks Canada asking Latourelle to clarify, the agency simply issued a statement saying it is "satisfied with the management of Gatineau Park by the National Capital Commission."
Jean-Paul Murray, a local activist who wants stronger protection for the park, said the park is being fragmented by roads and private property, and the memo is welcome news.
"Underlining that Parks Canada could not manage Gatineau Park or protect its ecological integrity within the actual NCC budgetary constraints is a boost to all those who say the park needs better protection," he said.
Murray said 117 new houses have been built inside Gatineau Park boundaries since 1992 and it is the only federal park that isn't a national park.