Preserving Ottawa’s Metropolitan Nature: How the 1970 Gatineau Park Planning Controversy Transformed the National Capital Commission and its Conservation Park


  • Michael Lait Carleton University


metropolitan nature, public participation, conservation movement, blueprint planning


Although the National Capital Commission claimed to administer Gatineau Park according to a conservation policy, the 1960s saw numerous urban-type developments in the park and NCC planners emphasizing the park’s recreation potential. Th is paper describes how the 1970 Gatineau Park planning controversy sparked by conservationists opposed this policy reversal and forced the NCC to abandon blueprint planning. This paper then examines relations between the NCC conservationists from the time of the planning controversy to the first Gatineau Park master plan. Drawing from Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation, it is argued that, during its transition to participatory planning, the NCC placated conservationists, receiving their input but not always
influenced by it. Thus, conservationists were disappointed by the first master plan, both its process and content. While they continue to play an important watchdog role in the park’s management, and regularly participate in
NCC planning exercises, conservationists have been unable to secure protective legislation for Gatineau Park. The status quo remains, such that the NCC can alter park policy without parliamentary oversight. Meanwhile, the park’s wilderness character remains threatened by urbanization pressures.