September 27, 2011
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is getting a facelift with the launching of Park Path Explorer and the inauguration of its discovery and visitors centre
Stoneham - The Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, Pierre Arcand, the President and CEO of the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (Sépaq), Raymond Desjardins, and the Vice-President of Operations for Parcs Québec, Martin Soucy, were among those attending today’s launching of the new Park Path Explorer approach, a first for Quebec’s network of national parks. The completely refurbished discovery and visitors centre at Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier was also inaugurated today, marking the end of a series of essential construction projects at the park, all part and parcel of the second phase of development of our national parks.
These development projects were preceded by an in-depth reflection on how things should be done at Parcs Québec, especially with respect to sustainable development and education. Sépaq assembled a multi-disciplinary team to rethink its educational package in order to
- better fulfill the educational mission of the parks by incorporating its imperatives into all other facets of the visit;
- help visitors realize the richness and fragility of the natural and historic elements that are developed and protected by the parks;
- reinvent the role of the exhibit as part of the educational approach traditionally offered by the parks; and
- renew the visitor experience at a time when communication methods are undergoing a profound transformation.
"During the reflection process, a new approach quickly emerged: the Park Path Explorer, which enhances the experience of discovering our parks and maintains the visibility of our network,” affirms Raymond Desjardins, proudly speaking of this new approach, the product of extensive teamwork at Sépaq. The inauguration of the discovery and visitors centre (DVC) at Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is the first in a series of seven such events planned for our network in the weeks ahead.
An open-air museum offering a wealth of discoveries
For the last 12 years, Parcs Québec has been presenting high quality indoor thematic exhibits. However, “with time, we have realized that the traditional exhibit no long meets the needs of a new park clientele, which prefers direct contact with the territory itself,” points out Martin Soucy, Vice-President of Operations for the national parks network. Based on the premise that nature is to parks what works of art may be to museums, it became obvious that parks are large open-air museums and that their main attraction is the outside world, encompassing their territory.
Park Path Explorer: a new way to discover our national parks
Park Path Explorer was developed by taking into account the need to highlight certain key attributes, natural or historical, of our national parks. First of all, we will connect with visitors where they naturally end up on arrival, in the common living area of the DVC, the launching pad for their discovery. The Park Path Explorer, which is also available on the Parcs Québec website, will initially lead people to discover what there is To See and To Do in the national park that they are visiting. This tool will also enable people to customize their visit by choosing among proposed walking, cycling or navigable paths, and “will serve to support the excellent work done by our reception team in the national parks,” Martin Soucy adds.
Once they have chosen their path, visitors can begin their visit, armed with an iPod, an iPhone or a brochure. The For further information tab will provide access to a series of thematic files, enabling visitors to learn more about the park before or after their visit.
Just like the interpretive panels that line the paths and the 500 discovery activities designed for guided tours or independent visits, the Park Path Explorer allows people to further their understanding of the parks’ mission. "By guiding visitors through their discoveries, we want to lead them to participate more actively in the mission to conserve our parks," Martin Soucy concludes, focusing on the task at hand.
Whether as regards the planning, design or construction phases of a discovery and visitors centre, the principles of sustainable development are always taken into consideration. These principles have a bearing on both the orientation of a building and the choice of materials, equipment and facilities. For example, the DVC of Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier has been renovated mainly using materials from the building being replaced. In addition, the chosen lighting helps reduce light pollution, the wood is FSC certified, innovative technology is used to treat wastewater more effectively, and so on. "In keeping with its mission, the Société is resolutely committed to staying on the path of sustainable development. The completion of this discovery and visitors center is a prime example of our commitment,” says Raymond Desjardins.
The rental centre at Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier has also been expanded and shifted, so that it now faces the river where visitors can try their hand at canoeing, kayaking and mini-rafting. For its part, the amphitheatre has become a separate building. Lastly, the improvement and stabilization of Route de la Vallée, providing access to the DVC, has put a finishing touch to the series of projects. The opening of this road in winter had become a must in order for the park to develop a year-round offering commensurate with its national park status and befitting its location in an area renowned for an exceptional array of winter activities.