Cleaning up Gatineau Park and Greenbelt trails could take months

The National Capital Commission says clean up of trails and greenspaces could take several weeks or even months as crews deal with tree damage from the derecho storm on May 21.

Some trails remain closed in Greenbelt and Gatineau Park

The Green's Creek area remains closed after the derecho storm. The National Capital Commission says it expects clean up to continue for several weeks or months. (Sarah Kester/CBC)

The National Capital Commission (NCC) says cleaning up its trails and greenspaces could take several weeks or even months as crews grapple with tree damage from the derecho storm on May 21.

The NCC said Ottawa's Greenbelt was hit the hardest and many trails remain closed to visitors, but extensive clean up is also happening in Gatineau Park. 

"We have situations from easy to very complicated to solve and linked to that we will have some delays," said Patrick Laliberté, the NCC's director of Ontario urban lands and Greenbelt.

In Gatineau Park, most — but not all — of the trails and summer activities are open, but staff have not yet explored all winter trails for damage. 

"The damage in the park was extensive, but not as much as in Ontario," said Catherine Verreault, the NCC's director of Quebec urban lands and Gatineau Park.

Many trees remain down in the Conroy Pit off-leash dog park. It's one of many NCC areas still closed to visitors after the storm. (Sarah Kester/CBC)

"On some trails, it's dozens and dozens of trees that have fallen down. So it will take a bit more time [to clean up]," she said.

Running club cancels events

Kate Aldred, who organizes trail runs for the Bushtukah Stittsville Trail Running Club, said she cancelled events for the past two weekends because it's too dangerous to be out on the trails.

"We decided it's best just to cancel it until we have the go-ahead from the NCC," she said.

Aldred said she's heard from other runners that trail conditions are gradually being improved, so she's hoping to be able to mount a run this coming weekend.

But she added that might be too optimistic.

Dog walkers flock to Conroy Pit 

Despite the parking lot remaining closed at Conroy Pit, cars have been parking along Conroy Road to access the off-leash dog park. 

After seeing the vehicles, Jennifer Hauteclocque brought her active border collie, Appa, to the park this past weekend for the first time since the storm. 

Despite ongoing cleanup, dog walkers still let their animals off leash at Conroy Pit. The main walkway was clear but many trails still remain blocked by downed trees. (Sarah Kester/CBC)

Before the storm Hauteclocque would come every day, and she said it's been rough at home trying to contain Appa's energy.

"My dog can't really handle not having off-leash walks so this is sort of my only option," she said. 

The main path was cleared of trees, but as they ventured deeper into the park they found more and more fallen trees and debris, she said.

"We went a bit on the off paths and you kind of have to climb trees and do parkour to get through," she said.

Hauteclocque said Appa liked to climb over the fallen trees but "it's still a hazard so it's a bit worrisome. We try to stay on the main path." 

The NCC is asking the public to avoid closed trails because people could be putting themselves and clean up crews at risk. People can visit the NCC's website for updates on which sites are open.

"They probably don't realize all the dangers they are exposed to, so we ask them to avoid these trails and to stay safe, to be patient," Laliberté said.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of Patrick Laliberté, the NCC's director of Ontario urban Lands and Greenbelt.
    Jun 06, 2022 8:31 AM ET


Sarah Kester


Sarah Kester is a reporter at CBC in Ottawa. She can be reached at