And that there are signs that seem to show that the government is taking the outdoors seriously. In October 2022, Isabelle Charest was appointed Minister responsible for Sport, Recreation and the Outdoors. Last July, it announced a sum of 2.7 million to upgrade sections of the National Trail and establish others. “Of course we still have a lot of things to improve, but we really want to do it,” says Isabelle Charest in an interview with La Presse.

Isabelle Charest won three Olympic medals in short track speed skating. Now she devotes herself more to hiking. “It’s probably the activity I do the most,” she says. I am lucky to be in a region, the Eastern Townships, where there are a lot of trails. »

His goal as minister is to get people moving.

Ms. Charest is responsible for the Société des establishments de plein air du Québec (SEPAQ), while issues of conservation and the creation of new parks are more the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks. She sees no contradiction between a nature conservation objective and an accessibility objective. “By giving responsible access, you increase awareness, appreciation, so ultimately people will be more inclined to protect nature,” she said.

However, many outdoor enthusiasts deplore the high access and accommodation fees in SEPAQ parks. According to Ms. Charest, it is not a question of reducing them, but rather of helping less privileged clienteles. “That’s why we adopted measures such as free days or the seasonal pass. The Minister recalls that there are significant costs related to the development and maintenance of infrastructure. In his opinion, fees can remind visitors of this reality and encourage them to take care of it. “I think the notion of respect also comes with certain costs,” she says. She adds that SEPAQ does not want to compete unfairly with private facilities, which also face significant costs.

She recalls that during the last election, the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) promised to create three new parks, expand five and invest millions of dollars to help municipalities improve access to bodies of water. . She also points out that the government has provided an envelope of 1.5 billion over 10 years to improve sports and recreational infrastructure. “There is already 300 million cleared, there will be a call for projects in September and outdoor infrastructure is eligible. »

The issue of insurance is also a hindrance for municipalities and organizations that offer outdoor sites and want to protect themselves against lawsuits in the event of an accident. Insurers are increasingly cautious and demand sometimes exorbitant premiums. The Minister believes that outdoor organizations can play a role in professionalizing the practice. At the present time, there is no uniformity in terms of supervision, rating of trails or markings. “We are working with the various outdoor organizations to have better training, better information for participants, a little more uniformity. It will certainly help for the sales pitch that we will make to insurers. »

Isabelle Charest affirms that the government had increased the budgets in the field of sport, recreation and the outdoors to promote this professionalization. Of course, his ministry is not the only one asking for more money. But she has a secret weapon. “We have ministers who are great users of the outdoors, who are very aware of the benefits that it can have on a population, she confides to us. So the ear is very attentive. »

A mountain bike professional, Rémy Métailler, accompanies a 9-year-old little guy, Benson Archer, who is not afraid of anything.

This is the number of lakes and waterways in Quebec where we find the Eurasian watermilfoil, an invasive species. Be sure to clean your boat well to avoid transporting it from one body of water to another.