HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Marijuana Found In Gatineau Park
Pubdate: Thu, 12 Aug 2004
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2004 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.
Author: Dave Rogers, The Ottawa Citizen


The National Capital Commission is "defiling the memory of the father of 
Gatineau Park" by failing to stop marijuana cultivation in the heart of the 
region near a road the prime minister takes to his Harrington Lake 
residence, a park advocate says.

Chelsea resident Jean-Paul Murray, a Senate speech-writer, said he stumbled 
on about 60 marijuana plants last week during a walk near Chelsea Creek off 
the north loop of the Gatineau Parkway.

The plants are near a parking lot up the creek from the Gatineau Park 
Visitor Centre and close to Meech Lake Road, used by Prime Minister Paul 
Martin and thousands of others.

Mr. Murray said the plants are in a valley once owned by Roderick Percy 
Sparks, a man he said played a far more influential role in founding 
Gatineau Park than prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, who is still 
more widely regarded as the park's founder.

Mr. Murray complained to NCC officials on Saturday after he found the 
marijuana, bags of fertilizer, watering cans and empty bags of a soil 
mixture for starting seedlings. The carefully tended plants were still 
there yesterday.

NCC spokeswoman Cath-erine Fortin said park conservation officers searched 
twice for the two marijuana patches, but were not able to find them.

Ms. Fortin said NCC officials won't report the grow operation to police 
until they locate the plants.

Mr. Sparks dedicated 25 years of his life to the creation of a national 
park in the Gatineau Hills and for 10 years was chairman of the Federal 
Woodlands Preservation League, a lobby group that encouraged the first 
government purchase toward forming Gatineau Park.

During the 1930s, Mr. Sparks and other members of the league argued there 
should be a national park in the Gatineau Hills.

They said the widespread cutting of trees for firewood endangered the 
area's scenic beauty. The government created Gatineau Park in 1938, but it 
is not a national park and has no legal protection as a park.

Mr. Sparks wrote the master plan for development of the park in 1952. The 
plan recommended that all private property in the area, including his home, 
be expropriated.

Mr. Sparks' vacant house on Meech Lake Road in the park burned under 
mysterious circumstances in 2001, two months after Mr. Murray, the former 
managing editor of the federalist Cite libre magazine, began asking 
questions about its owner.

There was no electricity or combustible material -- other than the building 
itself -- to create a fire risk, nor was there evidence of fire starting in 
the nearby woods.

No cause for the fire was ever made public. The police did not release a 
report and the report from the fire authorities was almost a blank. There 
was no cause, no suspect and little investigation.

The NCC demolished the burned remains of the Sparks house after the fire, 
Mr. Murray said.

Percy Sparks was unpopular with federal Liberals because he helped to bring 
down the Mackenzie King government and in 1926 advocated expropriation of 
private property within the park.

"The way I see it is Percy Sparks made a lot of enemies by denouncing rum 
runners in the 1920s," Mr. Murray said. "I think this is almost a 
repetition of history. There are people defiling the memory of Percy Sparks 
by doing illegal things around his place.

"Percy Sparks was an outstanding Canadian and a role model for future 
generations. I think this kind of neglect is not respecting his memory or 
his legacy which is Gatineau Park."

The NCC has hired a pair of Outaouais historians to study the origins of 
Gatineau Park after it received information that contradicts the popular 
notion that Mackenzie King was the father of the park.

The $23,000 historical study of the park's origins by Michel Filion and 
Serge Gagnon, two Universite du Quebec en Outaouais professors, is to be 
released this fall.
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