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June 11, 2010

Five Questions: Guide Gatineau

Earlier this spring I came across GuideGatineau, an independent website run by Charles Hodgson along with help from volunteers. It's an incredible resource loaded with multimedia information and news, and Charles took some time to be the latest local site highlighted in our "Five Questions" series.

1. How long has GuideGatineau been around for any why did you start it?

It really got started in September 2009. I guess it’s a good excuse for me to get into the Park more often and that’s a good thing. I want to understand the Park better myself and there is no way better to come to grips with something than to have to try and explain it to others.

I had heard back in 2005 that the NCC had done a study on the impact of climate change on their operations and one of their findings was that by the year 2050 there would be no more cross-country skiing. As an avid cross-country skier that troubled me. Since I already have some audio equipment for a podcast that I do, I thought I’d try to record an audio archive of cross-country ski memories. That didn’t work out too well; batteries die at -20°C, the lodges were often too noisy to do interviews, or sometimes completely empty when I visited them.

But that got me thinking about what web resources there were out there dedicated to Gatineau Park. Except for the NCC website I couldn’t find anything. Anything that had an exclusively Gatineau Park focus that is. The NCC site is fine but it’s pretty corporate and it isn’t very interactive. That’s why I started GuideGatineau

2. What information will visitors find on the site?

There’s news, events, video and people’s comments. Every week I try to put together a YouTube video. That is often about some historical aspect to do with the park, for instance how a trail was named or some information about a person who’s associated with the park. If there are current events going on I might do the video with a focus on that; the recreational management plan or something. I have a whole pile of search engines running all the time so I try to catch any information that hits the web that has to do with Gatineau Park and bring it to a central place so people can find it easily. I have an events calendar and I’m hoping that more people with more events and activities will let me know about them so we can keep the calendar informative too.

3. Have you had any feedback or interaction with the NCC?

Yes, I’ve been working to develop relationships with people at the NCC who are responsible for managing the park and I’ve found them quite helpful. I think that they are suffering from a bad reputation with some park users; some people are really critical. But from what I can see most of them love Gatineau Park too and are trying to do their jobs to manage it responsibly.

4. What do you like the most about Gatineau Park?

It’s close, it has great roads for biking on, I can see wildlife, I can get away into what feels like wilderness using only my own steam, but if I had to pick one single thing it would be the cross-country skiing. Of course that’s not for everyone, but it is for me. I’m happiest on days when I can get a good ski in. I guess it’s not exactly Gatineau Park but I also like to drop in to the general store or the bakery in Old Chelsea after a vigorous outing; you know the pastries have zero calories if you’ve just done some good exercise beforehand.

5. If someone had just one day to visit Gatineau Park, what would you recommend?

Get off the parkway. I know that driving up the parkways to see the lookouts and lovely drives is very popular but I’d say bring your walking shoes or hiking boots along and buy a park map. Look for the less-trodden trails as well as the popular ones. Do a little research at GuideGatineau or buy Katharine Fletcher’s book. That will not only let you find the kinds of places that interest you, but you’ll know a little bit about them when you get there. If it’s winter you can’t go wrong by packing a picnic supper and skiing in to one of the lodges. They get pretty full of pretty joyous people of a Friday or Saturday night- other weeknights are usually quieter but still a lot of fun.
If you have a suggestion for our "Five Questions" feature, please send us an email!

Related: Ottawa Nature & Gardens Guide

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