Government officials scrambled to address the fallout of the Mud Immortal adventure race in the days following the controversial event, as they dealt with the lack of formal protocols for such uses of provincial parks.
That’s according to records obtained by CBC Investigates through access-to-information laws.
Meanwhile, the paper trail of correspondence between the province and event organizers actually ended in April, more than five months before Mud Immortal was held.
And the written back-and-forth that led to Mud Immortal organizers being permitted to use Butter Pot Provincial Park seemed perfunctory, according to the documents obtained by CBC Investigates.
More than 5,000 people participated in the adventure race, held on Sept. 21.
Participants lit up social media immediately after the event, complaining about a lack of organization and safety issues.
Initial contact in March
Mud Immortal organizers sent an e-mail requesting the use of the park to government officials on March 21.
The name of the person who sent the message is blacked out on documents provided to CBC Investigates.
But the sender wrote that the Newfoundland event was part of a planned series of races in Saskatchewan and South Carolina.
Within weeks, the Butter Pot race was a go.
The last written correspondence was dated April 12, and referenced a conversation to confirm the details of the event.
Fallout from event
Fallout after the Mud Immortal race was swift.
On Sept. 22, the day after the race was held, the manager of Butter Pot Provincial Park wrote an e-mail outlining the problems.
Those included “a number of injuries and broken bones during the race,” volunteers who didn’t show, and companies and suppliers who also did not arrive at the site.
- Read the government's response to a CBC Investigates request for records on the post-race review of protocols
- Read the government's response to a CBC Investigates request for correspondence between the department and Mud Immortal
Security company employees responsible for traffic control and parking “became overwhelmed in the first hour and quit.”
That led park officials to close Butter Pot to vehicles and take over traffic control.
On Sept. 23, two days after the race, the deputy minister of Environment and Conservation, Jamie Chippett, stressed the need for protocols in the future for events held in provincial parks.
At one point, officials suggested that other events — involving cadets and Scouts — may have to be cancelled, although it appears that did not happen.
In their response to the CBC News access-to-information request, Department of Environment officials said they have now implemented an application and approval process for groups seeking to use provincial parks in the off-season.
And the department indicated that its review of protocols for the use of provincial parks by outside organizations remains ongoing.
Internal e-mails sent days after the Mud Immortal event suggested those protocols should include:
- a formal written request from the organizer, covering the type of event, number of anticipated participants, safety and security provisions and insurance;
- a decision on what level of the department would approve such events;
- legal agreements for approved events.
No one available for interview
The Department of Environment and Conservation declined to make anyone available for an interview.
But in a statement sent to CBC Investigates Tuesday morning, the department stressed that “provincial parks are there for the enjoyment of our citizens and we make the parks available upon request for that reason.”
Others — such as Guides, Scouts, ski groups and snowmobile groups — have used the parks without issue.
The government says officials did meet with Mud Immortal representatives, and got assurances about security, medical services and other organizational issues.
Mud Immortal failed to live up to those commitments, according to the government.
The department says future events will be considered on a case-by-case basis, as a comprehensive policy is developed to address all uses of provincial parks.
No due diligence, Opposition critic says
But Liberal Opposition environment critic Tom Osborne says the government was negligent in the lead-up to the adventure race.
“Documents released to the CBC clearly show that there was no due diligence completed by government before they allowed this disorganized for-profit event to occur in a provincial protected area,” Osborne said in a news release issued Tuesday.
'At the very least, I would have expected government to require a formal written description of the event, but they didn’t even do that before allowing over 5,000 people to trample through a sensitive ecological area.' - Liberal environment critic Tom Osborne
“At the very least, I would have expected government to require a formal written description of the event, but they didn’t even do that before allowing over 5,000 people to trample through a sensitive ecological area.”
Osborne raised Mud Immortal in the house of assembly last month.
“Government provided the venue for this event, but never signed a contract with the organizer,” said Osborne.
“The documents released today further illustrate how little government cared about this event or considered the potential fallout.”