New Brunswick

What tourists have to say about the 'embarrassing' road to Fundy National Park

The natural beauty of Fundy National Park lures hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, but to get there, they have to navigate a nightmarish roadway pockmarked by bone-jarring potholes and lined by ugly clearcuts.

Tourists bounce over deep potholes and drive by ugly clearcuts before even getting to Fundy National Park

As tourism season kicks off, traffic will increase on Route 114, a roadway riddled with hazardous potholes and surrounded by clearcuts. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Every year, the natural beauty of Fundy National Park lures hundreds of thousands of visitors, who travel to New Brunswick to take in the park's crystal clear waterfalls and cliffs shrouded in ocean fog, and snap photos of abundant wildlife.

But to enjoy some of the best that the province has to offer, those travellers must endure some of the worst. 

Tourists coming from Western Canada or driving from the United-States are most likely to travel on Route 114, a roadway that has become a patchwork of bone-jarring potholes and disintegrating pavement. 

RVs and travel trailers with licence plates from New York, Florida and Texas weave and bounce along the deeply gashed road. Peering into a pothole allows you to count the layers of patched pavement used over the years, like rings on a tree trunk. 

As tourism season kicks off, traffic will increase on Route 114 to Fundy National Park, a roadway riddled with potholes and surrounded by clearcuts. 0:29

For business owners catering to the close to 369,000 tourists who visited the park last season, the road leading to Fundy National Park is shameful. 

"It's pathetic," said Rheal Richard, a hunting guide for Oak Mountain Outfitters. 

Richard guides Americans almost exclusively. Fresh from a successful morning hunt, he said the poor conditions have been tough even on vehicles intended for off-road use.

"No flat tires yet," said Richard, noting the road has broken trailer shackles and axles. 

"We're hoping we don't have any when we drive our tourists to the woods. But it's terrible. We're zigzagging all over to miss the potholes. It looks like we're drinking, but we're not, we're just trying not to break anything." 

Rheal Richard, a hunting guide for Oak Mountain Outfitters, says the road to Fundy National Park is so bad it's broken several pieces of travel gear built for off-road use. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Logging trucks can often be observed crossing the centre line to avoid some of the larger potholes. 

Potholes aren't the only problem. The route is surrounded by sprawling clearcuts, some of which come to the road's edge. Some are thinly concealed by a line of trees left standing. Many only stop when they meet the park's borders. 

Pothole season is well under way. This is how potholes are created, and why they feel worse some years than others. 1:28

The view that remains after the loggers do their work is a sharp contrast to the natural beauty of the park.

Jimmy Vande Brand rents cabins and cottages along Route 114 for tourists. He says he can't imagine what tourists think of the clearcuts in an area leading into the park. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"We've had people from Poland and France, and we've got people from Norway coming and all through the U.S.," said Jimmy Vande Brand, who builds and rents cottages for tourists along Route 114.

"I just wonder what they think it looks like. Must look like a bomb went off. That's what it looks like. Like a war zone, almost." 

'Kind of sad'

Vast clearcuts set the scene for tourists visiting Fundy National Park, coming right up to the park's entrance. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Tourists say there is a noticeable difference in the drive as their vehicle tires cross into the park from provincial pavement to federal. 

"It needs a lot of improvement," said Tom Wiggins, who came to Fundy with his wife from Maryland. "Some huge potholes. You really have to go slow. We hit a couple of them, and fortunately we didn't leave a flat tire." 

Tom Wiggins, a tourist from Maryland, says he found the road leading into Fundy National Park in rough shape. He needed to weave through the potholes to avoid getting a flat tire. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"Everyone was asleep, but I think they kept waking up because of all the bumps and the three-foot deep potholes," said Duncan Dean, who drove up from Massachusetts with three other friends to take in Atlantic Canada.

"And it's kind of sad to see they're logging everything, but the roads weren't as bad there, I guess." 

No funds to fix 

Dozens of deep potholes line the highway to Fundy National Park (Shane Fowler/CBC)

But as bad as the road is there are no plans for a long-term fix soon, according to the New Brunswick government. 

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Bill Oliver admits the road leading to Fundy National Park is 'embarrassing.' He says he's looking into a solution, but there is no money this year to fix the road. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"It's unfortunate and it's embarrassing, I would say, for myself as well, to have a road that leads to such an important piece of infrastructure as the Fundy National Park," said Bill Oliver, minister of transportation and infrastructure. 

Some deep potholes along Route 114 have several layers that show how many patch jobs have been done over the years. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Oliver said the road is an "important piece of infrastructure" and on the department's radar. However, he said, no funds are designated this year to rehab the entire roadway.

"But we will address the safety concerns and the conditions of the road service," he said.

About the Author

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

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