New Brunswick

Mount Carleton snowmobile plan a 'safety upgrade:' Bill Fraser

Tourism Minister Bill Fraser says expanded snowmobile trails on Mount Carleton will be in an area already designated for recreation and pruning of the road up the mountain will be done by hand.

Tourism minister says expanded snowmobile trails planned for an area already designated for recreation

Tourism Minister Bill Fraser is defending a plan to expand snowmobile trails on Mount Carleton, saying it will lead to a safer trail system that still protects the integrity of the provincial park.

Tourism Minister Bill Fraser said an expanded snowmobile trail in Mount Carleton Provincial Park will be a safety upgrade. (CBC)
The plan to double the width of a utility road up the mountain to about 3.5 metres is drawing criticism from the public, including members of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and a former park manager.

Fraser said snowmobiles have been allowed on that section of the mountain for 20 years.

"Currently, we already have snowmobiling taking place on that utility road … that's a road to be used for safety," Fraser said Wednesday on Information Morning Fredericton.

"So if there's an instance where you have to get emergency personnel to the mountain to rescue someone off the mountain, that's the road to do it. That's separate from the hiking trail people would be rightfully concerned about."

Bill Fraser, Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, talks about the snowmobile plan for Mt. Carleton Provincial Park. 15:59

Fraser said, if anything, the changes will only improve oversight of the area.

Under the plan, additional staff will be hired to supervise snowmobile users so that they stay on the designated utility road.

"There's going to be people monitoring that, [there will be] security there 24 hours a day to monitor the trail and monitor the park," he said.

The provincial and federal governments announced 343 kilometres of new trails for northwestern New Brunswick in July. (CBC)
"We're going to make it safer and more controlled and we're going to have security on site to make sure it's done in a respectful manner."

Jean-Louis Deveau, a former manager of Mount Carleton, told CBC News this week he believed turning the provincial park into a hub for snowmobiles would have a harmful effect on the ecosystem.

Deveau said he wants the park broken up into zones to protect the most sensitive areas from development.

Fraser said it's going to be a while before any provincial parks have management plans, but expanded snowmobile trails on the mountain will be in an area already designated for recreation.

In addition, he said pruning of the road will be done by hand.

The Department of Environment, Department of Natural Resources, the town of St. Quentin, and the Restigouche Regional Service Commission all reviewed the proposal and had no concerns, Fraser said.

The Department of Tourism estimates the snowmobiling industry brings in $25 million per year in revenue to the province.

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