Volunteers help staff clear trails in Gatineau

Stormy weather in December made a huge mess of trails in Gatineau Park, but crews and volunteers have just about finished the cleanup.
Gilles Simard says he lost 10 pounds in a month helping to clear trails of branches and overhanging trees in Gatineau Park. (CBC)

Volunteers are joining forces with the National Capital Commission to clear trails in Gatineau Park after intense weather has littered them with tree branches and other obstacles.

It's been nearly two months since winter storms wreaked havoc on the trails. Gilles Simard said he is helping tidy things up because he loves it in the park and it's great exercise.

"It's my home; that's my park, so I need to keep it clean," he said. "It's a good thing ... I lost 10 pounds in a month."

December storms dealt a huge amount of ice and snow that caused trees to collapse and at one point the NCC had to close nearly all of the park's trails.

Since then, crews have worked hard to make them safe again, said Louis-René Sénéchal of the NCC.

"The work that we still need to do isn't widespread, so we're focusing on a few remaining trails that we still have to work on," he said, adding that most of the primary and secondary cross-country ski trails are now clear.

But the NCC staff have finished just half of the backcountry trails and are relying on volunteers such as Ron Werthman to help complete the job.

"We're always in the park doing one thing or the other — skiing in the winter, mountain biking in the summer," Werthman said. "So I just enjoy the chance to give something back."

In spite of efforts, the NCC said a few trees continue to hang over trails creating a hazard, so it's asking visitors to check its website or call ahead for conditions in specific areas.

The commission expects to finish the cleanup in the next week.