The road to the official opening of the park has been a long one.
Community groups first approached the Quebec ministry for forests, wildlife and parks in 2002 with a proposal to save Pointe Opémican by integrating it into a provincial park, but it took more than a decade of study and public consultation for the ministry to finalize the boundaries for the park. In 2013, responsibility for the development of the park was transferred to the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (SÉPAQ), a crown corporation that manages the province’s 23 parks and 15 wildlife reserves. As construction began on the roads, campsites and visitor centre, SÉPAQ struck a roundtable made up of representatives from the local municipalities, including the Wolf Lake and Kebaowek First Nations, to keep them updated on the progress.
At first there were a lot of questions, says Patricia Noël, president of Laniel’s municipal council. Laniel, an unorganized territory within the larger regional municipality of Témiscamingue, has just 80 year-round residents. “A lot of people were scared that with the park, they would lose the tranquility and the wilderness they found here,” she says. “We want to develop tourism, but in a way that respects nature.”
Now, she says, with the park’s opening imminent, uncertainty has given way to excitement at the possibilities for showcasing the region to a national and international audience.
“It’s not just the beautiful views,” she says. “I can’t explain it, but we have ‘wow’ here.”