National Parks

Restoration Case Studies

Restoration of Pink Lake (Gatineau Park)

Note: This project was led by the National Capital Commission. Parks Canada is acting as host for presentation of this case study, but was not involved, either directly or indirectly, in the Pink Lake restoration project.

Project Lead: National Capital Commission

Key Partners: (not applicable)

Location: Gatineau Park, Quebec

Natural Region: (not applicable; only applies to National Parks)

Ecozone: Boreal Shield (see ecozone map and description)

Timeframe: 1988 to 1990

Project Size: Lake size is 12 ha

Quick Links:
Project Overview - Natural and Cultural Heritage Values - Defining the Problem - Goals and Objectives - Project Activities - Monitoring - Lessons Learned - What’s Next? - For More Information - Contacts - Key Partners
Pink Lake, Gatineau Park Pink Lake, Gatineau Park.
© National Capital Commission

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Project Overview

The National Capital Commission led the ecological restoration of Pink Lake in Gatineau Park. The project focused on re-establishing the natural ecosystem of the lake and re-vegetating the shoreline, which had become eroded following uncontrolled visitor access. Erosion of nutrient-rich soils into this small meromictic lake (a lake whose waters do not mix) was causing excess algae growth and eutrophication (a natural process of plant growth caused by a strong concentration of nutrients). The solution was to provide alternatives to the use and enjoyment of the site through improvements to visitor access, including installation of trails and lookout points along with interpretive panels. Swimming was no longer permitted, and visitors were encouraged to enjoy and appreciate the lake’s unique ecology.

The actions undertaken by the Pink Lake restoration team demonstrate the best practice approach described in Principles and Guidelines for Ecological Restoration in Canada’s Protected Natural Areas. The process of ecological restoration, as described by this approach, adheres to three guiding principles. Restoration should be:

  • effective in restoring and maintaining ecological integrity,
  • efficient in using practical and economic methods to achieve functional success, and
  • engaging through implementing inclusive processes and by recognizing and embracing interrelationships between culture and nature.

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Natural and Cultural Heritage Values

The National Capital Commission manages Gatineau Park as a conservation park committed to environmental conservation. Gatineau Park stretches approximately 50 kilometres northwest of the inner cities of Ottawa/Gatineau to quite isolated rural and semi-wilderness areas. The park’s topography is primarily Laurentian (Boreal) Shield with many lakes and watercourses throughout a typical mixed hard- and softwood forest. The vision for the park is to conserve significant ecosystems while providing visitors with a respectful recreational park experience and enhancing heritage resources related to Canada’s capital.

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Defining the Problem

Since the opening of the Gatineau Parkway in 1958, Pink Lake has been a popular day use area for picnics and hiking. Visitor access to the lake’s surroundings was not controlled or limited, and there were no educational or interpretative signs to build understanding and appreciation for the site. Over the years, Pink Lake became known as a site for many unofficial activities such as swimming and ‘bush’ parties, all of which led to significant losses of shoreline vegetation and soil erosion around the lake.

Pink Lake is surrounded by steep cliffs and a rocky shoreline with thin soils, which are easily eroded. The soils around the lake are rich in phosphorus, and the increased influx of this nutrient into the water was contributing to algae growth and speeding up the eutrophication of the lake.

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Goals and Objectives

The Pink Lake restoration project began as a response to scientific researchers who pointed out the problems and identified some of the contributing factors, such as excessive soil erosion around the lake.

A multi-disciplinary project team developed a plan for the lake, in concert with the scientific community. This plan included building new infrastructure to provide alternative access and use of the site. In addition, more focused study developed remedial strategies and led to detailed landscape and planting plans, as well as interpretation and communications plans. Studies by Trent University researchers and the Pink Lake Development Plan identified background issues and plotted a general rehabilitation strategy.

The goal was to enlist the public’s respect and support by permitting controlled access to the lake’s surroundings, while offering an interesting and educational interpretation experience. Previous activities such as parties, fires and swimming would be prohibited and enforcement applied.

Recommendations that arose from a number of Environmental Assessments influenced the timing of major works, as well as access issues, equipment use, tree protection measures, fences for plant protection and browse control, erosion control, soil retention, and plants chosen for re-vegetation.

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Project Activities

Effective in restoring and maintaining ecological integrity

To break the pattern of inappropriate use of the lake, and permit construction of new infrastructure, the lake area was closed and fenced off for over two years. In advance of the closure, the decision, the reasons for it, and its potential impact on visitors were widely communicated through on-site press conferences.

Swimming area at west end of Pink Lake, late 1970s Swimming area at west end of Pink Lake, late 1970s.
© National Capital Commission
Same location in 2007 showing the site closed in Same location in 2007 showing the site closed in.
© National Capital Commission


Major construction included removal of old infrastructure, trails and stairs, realignment of parking lots, and new construction of large platforms, boardwalks and stairways in the first year. The lake trail was completed in the second year, with additional hardened pathways and built structures.

Lower parking lot with trampled trail in 1988 before restoration Lower parking lot with trampled trail in 1988 before restoration.
© National Capital Commission
Boardwalk under construction from lower parking lot to lookout, over formerly trampled path Boardwalk under construction from lower parking lot to lookout, over formerly trampled path.
© National Capital Commission


Eroded shoreline at swimming site in Pink Lake Eroded shoreline at swimming site in Pink Lake.
© National Capital Commission

To re-vegetate eroded areas, a detailed site planting plan took into account soil types and moisture conditions, existing vegetation, slope and light exposure. Indigenous plants were grown for each designated site at a nursery specializing in these species of plants. Eleven different plants were selected for the different habitats and sites around the lake.

Twenty years later, the improvements from restoration are clearly evident with native vegetation restored at bare and trampled sites. Unofficial trails have largely disappeared. Water testing shows normal levels of phosphorus in the water and erosion has been greatly reduced.



Restored Pink Lake and the Gatineau Parkway Restored Pink Lake and the Gatineau Parkway.
© National Capital Commission


Efficient in using practical and economic methods to achieve functional success

Relying on volunteers for much of the work helped reduce costs and built interest and concern from the public. All volunteers attended training sessions to learn planting techniques, safety practices and characteristics of the different plants selected for different habitats around the lake.

Eroded water access and picnic site in the late 1970s Eroded water access and picnic site in the late 1970s.
© National Capital Commission
The same site from a slightly elevated perspective (stairway) after restoration. Railing and formal path keeps visitors off the shoreline The same site from a slightly elevated perspective (stairway) after restoration. Railing and formal path keeps visitors off the shoreline.
© National Capital Commission


Boardwalk and trail to control traffic Boardwalk and trail to control traffic.
© National Capital Commission

Physical structures and signs were designed and built to withstand extreme traffic over the long term, both at lookouts and along the trail.



Engaging through implementing inclusive processes and by recognizing and embracing interrelationships between culture and nature.

The restoration of shoreline plants was organized as a community partnership project called “Trees and People”. Over four days, 100 volunteers planted 6,000 seedlings around Pink Lake. Volunteers were later celebrated with an informal dinner and presented with small plaques to recognize their hard work.

Volunteers plant trees at Pink Lake Volunteers plant trees at Pink Lake.
© National Capital Commission
Platform with interpretive signage over former picnic area Platform with interpretive signage over former picnic area.
© National Capital Commission


Interpretative signs were installed at major entry points and significant points along the trail. Interpretation programs (initially) and the panels help build appreciation and public support for generations to come – not only for the lake, but for the overall park as well.

The public now views the lake with respect as a beautiful natural attraction and a site to walk, hike, appreciate its beauty and ‘show off’ to family and friends.

Both major access points now offer barrier-free access to all visitors and families.

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Monitoring

In 2004, after 15 years of monitoring the slopes and water of Pink Lake, monitoring was discontinued. The problems with inappropriate use of the site and non-official trail proliferation had been resolved, the slopes were in good condition, and the water quality was stable for transparency and levels of phosphorus. Nonetheless, the lake’s waters continue to be sampled every two years in a program that checks the five major lakes of the park that are frequented by the public.

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Lessons Learned

  • Closing of the site was the single most important factor in the success of the project. It provided an abrupt end to the disturbances that had eroded the shoreline habitat. This also provided an opportunity to win over the majority of users. This majority will support projects like this on a long-term basis, given the opportunity to do so.
  • When working with volunteers, it was most effective to have small groups with assigned leaders, good support and clear responsibilities. Adequate background information and pertinent training were essential to engage the volunteers.
  • Build to last. Design up front for repair and replacement of components subject to wear and tear. Plan and design accessibility. Build carefully so that structures and facilities cannot be used for other activities (diving boards, forts, etc.)
  • Despite the project’s success, much of the planted material was lost during the first few years, as there was no intensive follow-up watering, staking and replacements. Succession plants established quickly to take their place. Working the ground, fencing and signing large areas assisted in this quick recovery.
  • Ongoing monitoring and enforcement activities were essential to maintain a presence and demonstrate commitment.
  • It takes time to create and identify problems, decide what to do and then get moving. It takes even more time to see real results.

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What’s Next?

While restoration of Pink Lake has been completed, the National Capital Commission has plans for other projects in Gatineau Park. A Conservation Plan was adopted in 2008 and a plan for the protection of the park’s important ecosystems was put in place in 2009. Many projects will be initiated from these planning exercises, most notably, rehabilitation of the shores of Meech Lake, protection of the Eardley Escarpment, and protection of the park's ecological corridors.

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For More Information

This case study is intended to provide general information about ecological restoration projects in Canada’s protected natural areas. For more detailed or technical information about this restoration project, please consult the following sources, or the contacts provided below.

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Contacts

For more detailed or technical information about this restoration project, please contact:

Gatineau Park Visitor Centre
33 Scott Road
Chelsea, Quebec
Tel.: 819-827-2020 or 1-800-465-1867 (toll-free)
info@ncc-ccn.ca

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Key Partners

(not applicable)

If you wish to comment on this case study, please contact Parks Canada at restauration.restoration@pc.gc.ca