Many outdoor enthusiasts have a weakness for regional parks. Poisson-Blanc, Montagne du Diable, Vallée Bras-du-Nord, Forêt Ouareau, Montagne d’Argent, Appalaches… Just mention these names and faces will light up and anecdotes will flow about this or that adventure. .

Regional parks play an important role for outdoor enthusiasts, but also for the regions themselves. The Association of Regional Parks of Quebec wanted to quantify the impact of these local institutions, starting with their economic impact.

“Every year, we carry out a survey on the profile of the members to find out their turnover, the origin of their customers, the products they offer,” indicates Pierre Gaudreault, general director of the association. This year, we wanted to know their economic impacts. »

“This is data that is very useful to regional parks,” says Mr. Gaudreault. This allows them to demonstrate the value of the benefits in their region. This can therefore help them when they submit funding requests, for example from the Tourism Industry Recovery Assistance Program, or from their MRC and other funders. »

The impacts of regional parks are not limited to the economic aspect alone. In particular, they have positive effects on the quality of life of the local population.

“It brings new residents, it allows the population to be active, to be healthy,” says Pierre Gaudreault, who knows what he is talking about.

“I’m in Val-David, 200 meters from the regional park,” he says. I came to settle here because I love cross-country skiing. On my lunch hour, I can go to the top of the mountain and then come back to work afterwards. It brings balance. »

The presence of a regional park also helps attract visitors, who may want to stay longer in the area or return frequently.

“In Val-David, there are a lot of Montrealers who come to spend the weekend in the area to walk in the park or go cross-country skiing. Visitors to regional parks are not necessarily an international clientele, but a Quebec tourist clientele. »

Indeed, the data collected in the report show that in 2022, international customers only made up 5% of visitors to regional parks, while Quebec tourist customers represented 44%. The remaining visitors were from the local area (23%) or the region (27%).

Regional parks also promote the protection of territories. “It’s really a citizen desire to protect a small piece of land for local people,” says Mr. Gaudreault. It is not protected like a national park, but for the majority of them, there is still protection against real estate development or other types of exploitation. »

He is talking about a majority of parks, not all: of the 70 members of the association, 17 are located on public land.

“There is then cohabitation with other industries. There may be logging, snowmobile trails, hunting. We can also think of the Massif du Sud, where there are wind turbines. Sometimes, there are conflicts of use. »

Several regional park managers are trying to set up harmonization tables. For example, a park can try to come to an agreement with a forestry operator so that the path it will build will eventually be used by outdoor enthusiasts, particularly to reach previously inaccessible areas.

The association also hopes that the Quebec government will consider these parks to be able to achieve its objective of transforming 30% of Quebec territory into protected areas.

Some regional parks spill over into agricultural land, which presents another challenge.

“They have rights of way for five years, which means that they have to reapply after five years to renew them,” explains Pierre Gaudreault. We are taking steps with a committee at the Agricultural Land Commission to obtain longer-term recognition. We are talking about very light developments, such as hiking or mountain biking trails. »

After record crowds during the pandemic, the situation returned to a little more normal in regional parks in 2022. We are talking about 6.8 million visits. That’s still a lot of outdoor enthusiasts.

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