Neighbours are staying away from NCC trails off Slack Road because public sex has become common in the wooded area.
The P15 parking lot that leads to Greenbelt trails in the Pine Grove and Pinhey Forest areas is busy on weekday afternoons, with cars arriving and departing and men walking in the woods. But it’s not because of the breathtaking greenery.
The site is a well-known cruising site for gay men, one where they meet up for anonymous sex, either in the parking lot or in the surrounding woods.
Even with the sun shining in mid-afternoon on the trails, the area has a clandestine feel to it and condom wrappers can be found on the ground.
A quick search of websites like Craigslist, Mon Amour Online and Cruising for Sex show listings from 2003 to as recently as last month as men arrange meetings in the “cruisy park.”
Agnes Warda, president of the Glens Community Association, said residents no longer walk the trails because they are worried about what they may come across. Dog walkers, hikers and commuters who could use the NCC pathways as a shortcut have been staying away.
“Most (residents) feel we are deprived from using the forest because you never know what you can find or expose your children to,” Warda said in an email.
Warda brought up the subject of public sex at an open house hosted by Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli in early October.
She said residents came to her with concerns about the ongoing activity.
“Some men have been followed walking through the trails; it makes them very uncomfortable,” Warda said.
Egli acknowledged at the open house he was aware of the problem but added he hadn’t heard any complaints from residents in the last year. He also said there was very little the city could do because the land belongs to the NCC.
Ottawa police Const. Tim Murray, who addressed the issue at the open house, told residents to call police if they witness illegal behaviour.
Jasmine Leduc, a spokesperson for the NCC, said the commission’s conservation officers have increased patrols in the area in the last few weeks, but their focus is protecting the assets of the Greenbelt and the environment.
Leduc compared the Slack Road situation to occasional nude sunbathing in some parts of Gatineau Park. She said the conservation officers can issue fines for indecent behaviour, but public nudity and sex are really under the jurisdiction of police.
“We work closely with the police forces in the National Capital Region to make sure to protect public safety and make the Greenbelt a safe and welcoming place for all,” she said.
Ottawa police spokesman Const. Marc Soucy would only say police are aware of the issue.
“It’s in our system,” Soucy said of the Slack Road parking lot’s municipal address.
Claudia Van den Heuvel, the executive director of Pink Triangle Services, said cruising is very common in urban areas. She made the point that while casual sex is commonly associated with gay men, public sex is also common in the straight community.
Van den Heuvel wrote in an email that some of the risks associated with cruising can personal safety and sexually-transmitted diseases.
“Dealing with cruising has been a long-debated issue in the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) community with opinions differing between a public health approach and a criminalization approach to deterring such activities,” she wrote. “While there are strong arguments on both sides, a sexual health approach will address the underlying issues and the potential health risks associated with these activities.”
Warda suggested more patrols and possibly closing the parking lot.