OTTAWA -- The National Capital Commission is cancelling its free shuttle bus to Gatineau Park for the remainder of its Fall Rhapsody season because of the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Quebec.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic alert level was recently raised to code orange in the Outaouais region, the National Capital Commission (NCC) today decided to cancel its free shuttle service to Gatineau Park for the entire 2020 Fall Rhapsody program," the NCC said in a statement on Wednesday.

The commission says cancelling the shuttle bus could also help limit crowds at the popular park in a time when physical distancing is paramount.

"With the increase last weekend in the numbers of people in Gatineau Park, and because of the importance of encouraging people to limit gatherings during the month of October, the NCC hopes that this decision will help reduce crowding of Park infrastructure, which is already very popular, by not bringing more people into the Park on the shuttle," the commission said.

The park was packed with visitors hoping to enjoy the autumn leaves on Saturday for the launch of the Fall Rhapsody event, which continues through Oct. 25. The NCC had to close parking lots and parkways in the park because of the abundance of visitors.

The free shuttle to the park was cancelled for the opening weekend to limit crowds, but the NCC now says the bus is parked for the rest of the season.

The Outaouais is in Quebec's Level 3 or "code orange" alert level, effective Oct. 1, according to the Quebec government. Residents and visitors are asked to avoid unnecessary social contacts, and limits are imposed on private indoor gatherings and public events.