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HULL, Que. — If the McConnell-Laramee Highway through Gatineau Park in Hull is extended some of the largest white pines in Eastern Canada will be destroyed, complains an Aylmer conservationist.

Ian Huggett wants National Capital Commission (NCC) planners to know that the $35-million, 1.8-km section of highway could jeopardize trees that are some 345 to 500 years old. The highway would require the clearing of almost 20 hectares of land — nearly 60 per cent of which is mature forest.

Huggett also contends that the road would likely cross two beaver ponds, destroying a threatened species of duck weed, reportedly this is one of only five sites where it exists in Quebec.

As well, a ramp from the McConnell-Laramee Highway to the Gatineau Parkway will go through a nesting site that Cooper’s hawks have used for years. Among the rare plant species affected would be black maple, white oak and swamp white oak. Wildlife includes the rare southern flying squirrel, showy shrew, Canada lynx, pine martin, four-toed salamander, western chorus frog and Blandings turtle.

But the NCC maintains that its plans are far from finalized and it’s really too early to say where the roadway will go. The existing route was approved by federal, provincial and municipal governments about 10 years ago but the planning group admits there have been many changes since then.

The four-lane highway has been planned since the 1960s as a throughway linking Aylmer, Hull and Gatineau. According to the most recent plans, it would run south of Lac des Fees in the southern gateway section of the park, connecting to Laramee Street at Promenade Lac des Fees.

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