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Former hostel to meet NCC wrecking ball
By Lucy Scholey
It was once a popular go-to spot near Gatineau Park, providing snowshoeing trails, outdoor activities and a cheap place to sleep, but it's difficult to picture it as such today. The windows of the old Carman Trails Hostel are boarded up, and the building is set for demolition this month.
It's part of the National Capital Commission (NCC) plan to "re-naturalize" the park and surrounding area. That is, demolish certain buildings and rebuild the natural flora.
"All sites acquired in 2008 had that goal," said NCC spokesperson Jean Wolff. There is no demolition date for the old hostel at 66 Carman Rd, but Wolff said it would happen within the next few weeks.
It's the second building on NCC land that will come down this month. As of press time, a building at 174 Cowden Rd, off Pine Road, was slated for demolition. A shed on the same property was demolished Jan. 6.
The NCC bought the nearly 170-year-old building in 2009. After a historical assessment determined it had no heritage value and it would cost $160,000 to renovate, the NCC decided to tear it down.
Rob Grace managed the Carman Trails Hostel for 13 years. He bought the property in 1995 and a team of workers replaced the windows and renovated the building interior.
The result was a welcoming reception room, a licensed restaurant, several bedrooms and bathrooms and a room for yoga or tai chi. At a cost of $16-$20 a night, the 80-acre property also provided hiking trails and a pond for swimming.
The hostel could accommodate between 28 and 40 people a night and welcomed about 3,000 visitors a year. Grace wanted to expand, but he eventually sold the property in 2007 to Chelsea musician Chris MacLean, who in turn sold it to the NCC two years later.
"It's sad," Grace said of the demolition plans. "You have emotional attachments to places, but it's not mine anymore."
He said he wished the NCC could have used the house and surrounding area as a snowshoeing gateway to the park.
Under an agreement with Gatineau Park officials, the Carman Trails Hostel was once an access point to the park, but Wolff said that's no longer the case.
From the February 2, 2011 issue: