The Ottawa-Gatineau Climbers’ Access Coalition information session on the implications of the Gatineau Park Ecosystem Conservation Plan (GPECP) took place Monday evening. At least 100 people attended the meeting, which was held at the Ottawa Mountain Equipment Co-op store.
Eric Grenier, chair of the Coalition, summarized the current state of affairs and said the immediate problem is getting the National Capital Commission’s attention and convincing them that the dialogue hasn’t finished yet – if anything it’s just starting:
“How do we engage them in that process? I think that the way we have to go about doing that is by employing public influence.” – Eric Grenier
The interim access agreement that’s been in place for the last three years expired at the end of 2009. The NCC has not seen fit to extend the agreement, so technically there’s no access agreement. You could view this as there being no restrictions on climbing, but I wouldn’t. If you’re a climber, probably the best way to handle the situation is continue to climb as though the interim agreement is still in effect. According to all accounts, neither the NCC nor the Coalition have had any problems with the way the interim agreement has been working for the last three years. And if you should be accosted by a conservation officer and told to stop climbing, stop climbing. Don’t argue with the conservation officer – remember, they are peace officers and have powers of arrest.
The Coalition also launched a postcard campaign lobbying John Baird, Minister of Transport. The NCC is partially in Baird’s portfolio and also in Lawrence Cannon’s portfolio in his role as Minister of State (National Capital Commission), so there’s no reason not to send one to Minister Cannon, too.
I had an opportunity to talk to some of the other people who attended the meeting, including Charles Hodgson who runs Guide Gatineau and Sarah Davidson who runs BOG. I also met David Foster, Vice-President of Access & Environment at the Alpine Club of Canada, who agreed with my assessment of the rationale in Appendix 2, particularly that what may be true for limestone cliffs is not necessarily true for granite cliffs like the Eardley Escarpment.
I have to admit that I was quite impressed. A meeting of this nature has a lot of potential to degenerate into a bitchfest, but people were quite civil and very attentive to what Eric and the people who asked questions were saying.
So, the challenge going forward is how to engage the NCC. We can’t use strong arm tactics such as being aggressive and making whatever the corporate equivalent of an ad hominem attack is. That won’t get us anywhere with the NCC.
Instead, we need to approach the issue of equitable access using terms they understand and demonstrate how climbing is not incompatible with the goals of the GPECP and the Gatineau Park Master Plan. Explaining it in terms of conservation and heritage are much more likely to elicit a positive response than yelling and screaming at them.
Congratulations and thanks to the Ottawa-Gatineau Climbers’ Access Coalition for championing the cause. It’s been a hard job and it doesn’t show signs of getting any easier. I put my name down for a couple of tasks on the list-of-things-they-need-people-for at the meeting last night. If you are interested in helping out, drop them a line.
As I mentioned, there were other bloggers at the meeting. Charles has posted his summary of the meeting on the Gatineau Park News blog, and Sarah has posted her take on the meeting in BOG. Charles filmed the meeting, so presumably he’s going to put some video up at some point. I’ll post a link to it when he does.
Update: Charles has posted a transcript of the meeting on Gatineau Park News.