HIS­TORY

A for­est-cover con­ser­va­tion map of Gatineau Park, Que., fit for the fall

Canadian Geographic - - CONTENTS - By Abi Hay­ward* this

IIT’S NOT AS GOOD as ac­tu­ally be­ing in Gatineau Park amid the rich au­tum­nal colours, but look­ing at this map of the 80-year-old pro­tected area in south­west­ern Que­bec is a mes­mer­iz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence unto it­self. The cam­ou­flage-like ta­pes­try of pre­dom­i­nantly ochre, or­ange, yel­low and red helps hold your gaze and piques your in­ter­est — where, ex­actly, is the army on Earth that’s us­ing pat­tern to con­ceal its soldiers? — be­fore evok­ing im­ages of stands of forested hill­sides ablaze with colour in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber, not to men­tion me­an­der­ing strolls through them in crisp fall air. When this for­est-cover map of the park was com­pleted in 1974, many city­d­wellers in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion (Gatineau Park is a 15-minute drive from down­town Ot­tawa and op­er­ated by the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Com­mis­sion) had long been feel­ing the itch to run for those hills. They wanted an es­cape — or at the very least, a break — from the fug of smog that came with post-war ur­ban ex­pan­sion and pop­u­la­tion growth; they wanted to breathe in the fresh air of forests, stroll on trails through the wilder­ness on their doorstep and per­haps even catch glimpses of wildlife such as black bears, much like the one pic­tured here that was pho­tographed ram­bling through the park some­time be­tween 1970 and 1985. But vis­i­tors eager to ex­pe­ri­ence the out­doors left be­hind more than just foot­prints and pho­to­graphs. As out­door recre­ation grew, so did the pres­sure on the park’s forests, which made author­i­ties in­creas­ingly con­cerned about the wel­fare of the woods. So in 1969, the For­est Man­age­ment In­sti­tute of the Cana­dian Forestry Ser­vice was dis­patched at the re­quest of the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Com­mis­sion to sur­vey the sit­u­a­tion on the ground and map the park’s patch­work of for­est cover. When the ser­vice fi­nal­ized its map five years later, it fi­nally had a com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture of the park’s spec­trum of tree types — dry, moist and wet hard­woods, mixed woods and soft­woods — and its bio­di­ver­sity, which re­mains un­usu­ally high for an area that’s just 361 square kilo­me­tres. The in­for­ma­tion proved in­valu­able for sup­port­ing for­est man­age­ment plans and was an im­por­tant mod­ern step in main­tain­ing what re­mains to­day a cher­ished wild refuge.

*with files from Erika Rein­hardt, ar­chiv­ist, Li­brary and Archives Canada

Read more sto­ries about the maps in Li­brary and Archives Canada’s col­lec­tion at can­geo.ca/topic/map-ar­chive.

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