Ottawa

It could cost more to visit Gatineau Park — but there may also be fewer cars

Visiting Gatineau Park could soon cost more as the National Capital Commission looks to bring in a new system for charging park users, according to documents obtained through access to information.

NCC wants more control over access to the park

The National Capital Commission is planning to change the fees Gatineau Park visitors pay. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Visiting Gatineau Park could soon cost more for some park users as the National Capital Commission looks to bring in a new fee system.

The NCC is looking to change the park's fee structure so that more visitors have to pay, access to the park is better controlled, and the commission raises more revenues.

According to documents CBC News obtained through access to information, the NCC's former CEO Mark Kristmanson signed off on a plan last December to get an outside consultant to suggest a new fee structure.

The commission issued a tender in February, but didn't get a qualified bidder, however.

'Reduce the inequality'

In an email, NCC spokesperson Dominique Huras said they are still looking at ideas to advance a new fee structure, in part because they know the status quo is a sore point.

"The current fee structure is often questioned by Gatineau Park visitors. Fees are based on some activities and/or parking, while other activities are free of charge," she said.

"The objective of the study is to reduce the inequality between the different fees for different activities and between the different types of user."

Former NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson, whose five-year term ended in February 2019, signed off on the plan last December to take a second look at Gatineau Park's fee structure. (CBC)

According to the tender documents the NCC posted, it currently receives approximately $3 million a year in revenue from fees now.

Huras said the NCC wants to see that revenue rise under the new structure.

"The objective of the study of the implementation of the fees is for everyone to contribute to the conservation of natural resources, the maintenance of recreational facilities and better management of access to the park," said Huras.

Karl Saidla is a member of a cross-country skiing group in the park and helps to run a website on trail conditions.

Saidla has a season pass to ski and also heads into the park in warmer months for trail running and biking.  He said he doesn't have any problem with the way the fees are structured today, but he has wondered about the rationale.

"Sometimes you ask yourself, 'Why is it that you have to pay for this activity, and not for that activity?'" he said.

Events like the Gatineau Park's annual fall rhapsody bring an unhealthy amount of drivers to the park. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Less driving 

Saidla said he hopes the new structure reduces the number of people driving into the park.

"You could make the argument that driving a car through a conservation park isn't really the type of activity that should be encouraged," he said.

"People should come to the park — but having everybody do it by car doesn't make a lot of sense."

Huras agreed that the NCC is concerned about too much car traffic as it puts pressure on the park's natural environment.

"The park's current fee structure and its gating/traffic control systems allow for multiple uncontrolled entry points to Gatineau Park, resulting in greater pressure on its environment and infrastructure," said Huras.

She cited Gatineau Park's annual fall rhapsody as one example of an event that drivers flock to, and said the NCC hopes a new fee structure might encourage more people to carpool.

The NCC's tender also suggests that the creation of a shuttle bus could limit the number of drivers visiting the park.

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