Moncton developer blocks longtime entrance to popular trail

Monctonians looking to take a walk down Hall's Creek Trail off Crowley Farm Road were in for a surprise this week

'I don't think it's very New Brunswicker of this person to put housing in the middle of a public trail'

A no-trespassing notice has been taped to the entrance sign at Hall's Creek trail off Crowley Farm Road in Moncton. (Olivia Chandler/CBC )

Monctonians looking to take a walk down Hall's Creek trail off Crowley Farm Road were in for a surprise this week.

The popular trail entrance is now blocked by a private developer and off limits to the public.

A No Trespassing sign is duct-taped on the trail's welcome sign and trees have been cut and positioned to block part of the trail route.

Margot Malenfant, a yoga instructor and Moncton resident, has hiked the Hall's Creek trail for decades, using the Crowley Farm Road entrance.

Not very 'responsible,' hiker says

Margot Malenfant points to trees that were cut by a private developer to block the Hall's Creek trail from the public. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)

Malenfant was was upset to discover the blocked trail.

"I think it's really important now to consider our green spaces as sacred," she said. "Especially moving forward with global warming.

"I just don't think it's very responsible to develop on land that has been used by the public for decades as a public trail. I think it's a little irresponsible."

Ariane Juneau-Godin, a graduate student in environmental studies. takes her three-year-old dog Lhasa running through Hall's Creek Trail multiple times a week. The trail is one of the few spaces in the city that are designated off-leash spaces.

Juneau-Godin didn't know about the development and was surprised and saddened to find the trail blocked.

"It's a little shocking, to be honest because it's a few big trunks of trees blocking the trail where we usually come running, and I was not expecting that," Juneau-Godin said.

"It was a very nice place to come in the woods that was completely untouched."  

Environmental concerns

Margot Malenfant and Ariane Juneau-Godin stand in the Hall's Creek-area forest where a house is to be constructed. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)
Many people visit the Hall's Creek area to experience wildlife and plant life in the city.

"The trail being blocked is one thing, but behind it is the clear-cutting of the entire forest that was here," Juneau-Godin. So that was even more shocking. 

"It's kind of a reserve for the fauna and flora in the area, there's a big osprey nest and there's a creek," she said. "There's a lot of work that should have been done to conserve the forest instead of developing it. "

Malenfant is concerned about the nearby wetlands and the potential of toxic run-off.

"It's not a good thing to be that close to the wetlands as far as development goes because the water becomes polluted. I don't think it's of great quality right now anyway. But it certainly doesn't need to be ruined even more."

New house planned  

A developer has posted a sign to keep trespassers away from the longtime entrance to the Hall's Creek trail. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)
The trail runs through land that is now being developed for a private home.

Sebastian Marc Girouard-LeClerc bought the property last June for $200,000 from HarbourEdge Realty Administration Corp. HarbourEdge Realty took ownership of the land in early 2014 after Vision Lands Inc. defaulted on the mortgage.   

Girouard-LeClerc has declined an interview after CBC News approached him at the development site. He said the public notice he taped to the trail's entrance sign is all he will say about the situation.

The developer who placed tree trunks across the Hall's Creek trail entrance has informed visitors in a notice that there is another way in. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)

The developer has also posted a sign to direct trail users to a new entrance

The City of Moncton said in an email that the sign and blockade are on private property and there's nothing it can do, despite the trail's popularity among residents.

"Where this is a private lot on which a person has decided to build their home, there is nothing that the City of Moncton can do to restrict or control what the individual wishes to do on his/her property as it relates to footpaths and /or permitting of people to trespass on the property," spokesperson Isabelle LeBlanc said in an email. 

Malenfant said there should be more respect for the city's green spaces.

"I just don't think it's very New Brunswicker of this person to put housing in the middle of a public trail that has been used and is very sacred to Monctonians."

Wonders what's next

She's worried more green spaces in the city will become developed.

"I want to know who let it happen," Malenfant said. "And I want something to be done about it because it kind of sets a precedents for other public spaces.

"Can we just start building on them willy-nilly? If there's one, will there be more?"  

Juneau-Godin still has hopes the developer will reconsider unblocking the trail.

"I hope we'll get to enjoy this still, after whatever is going on is sorted out."