Friday, April 07, 2006

Bush Parties Trash Gatineau Forest

An environmentalist says partying youth are putting the future of a Gatineau forest at risk.

Ian Huggett, a local environmentalist who lives in the Aylmer area of Gatineau, Que., says Boucher Forest has become a popular place for local youth to hold "bush parties."

Participants in the parties cut down trees to burn them in bonfires, and leave behind broken bottles, stolen construction debris and other garbage.

Huggett says the effect of the parties has "reached such a degree that we will not be able to protect this area and have it designated for conservation because its ecological value will have diminished in the eyes of the decision-makers."

He says unless the City of Gatineau takes action to protect Boucher Forest, developers will eventually turn it into another housing tract.

Some young people say the bush party has surpassed the house party in popularity.

"At bush parties you are, like, in the woods, and no one can hear you," said 18-year-old Ann-Marie Perron.

That means more privacy, fewer police raids and the excitement of a bonfire.

But locals in the area are becoming frustrated with the state of the forest.

"This site has been severely damaged," said Doris Aubin, who walks her dog in the forest. "You'll notice many of the residual trees have been burnt from fires, you'll see carbon at the base of the trees, at least seven sites, plywood nailed to trees."

She's afraid to go near the woods at night or on weekends for fear of running into a bush party.

Huggett says if young people continue damaging the woods, the city will clean up the area by bulldozing the forest and developing instead.

"The decision-makers will say, look it's full of bush parties, the area's being vandalized, wouldn't it look nicer if there were nice new homes in there," said Huggett.


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