New Brunswick

Mount Carleton snowmobile hub in sensitive area: former park plan

A master plan for Mount Carleton park created by the province 35 years ago offers a forewarning against the province's current plan to build a snowmobile hub and expand trails. The document from New Brunswick's Tourism Department shows the new hub and trails would be on "natural environment zones."

According to the province's plan from 1980, the area shouldn't be developed for snowmobiling

New Brunswick's Department of Tourism created a master plan for Mount Carleton park 35 years ago that shows the new snowmobile hub and expanded trails would be in an ecologically sensitive that shouldn't be developed. (CBC)

A master plan for Mount Carleton park created by the province 35 years ago offers a forewarning against the province's current plan to build a snowmobile hub and expand trails.

The document from New Brunswick's tourism department, dated June 1980, shows the new hub and trails would be on "natural environment zones" where there should be a "minimum of development required to support low-intensity recreational activities."

In July, the provincial and federal governments announced a new snowmobile fueling station would be built and 343 kilometres of trails opened up in the area. The plan has generated some controversy over the past couple of months.

According to the province's 1980 plan, the area shouldn't be developed for anything to do with snowmobiling.

The plan divides the park into six zones, including natural environment zones, development zones and recreation-utilization zones. The new hub and expanded trails are not in the designated development or recreation-utilization zones.

"Given the overwhelming natural settling of Mount Carleton Provincial Park, the noise and environmental disturbance associated with motorized vehicles, the abundance of other areas in the province suitable for operating four wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles, snowmobiles and other ATV's … motorized recreational vehicles will not be permitted within the park excpect in Development and Access Zones," the 1980 plan stated.

Tourism Minister Bill Fraser has told CBC News none of the provincial parks in New Brunswick have resource management plans in place.  But, he said the plan being developed for the Mount Carleton park will have designated recreation and wilderness zones, and the hub and expanded trails are in the recreation zone.

'Typical of how the province operates'

Jean Louis Deveau, a former manager of the park and co-founder of the Friends of Mount Carleton Provincial Park, tracked down the 1980 master plan through Department of Natural Resources archives.

"It's concrete evidence that they do have the information that they need in order to be able to make rational decisions on how to manage the park. But they're not using that information.

"I'm sorry to say, this is typical of how the province operates. It doesn't keep tabs on stuff that was done in the past," Deveau said.

The former park manager argues the ecology of the park hasn't changed since the zoning system was established in 1980, and the government should take the system into account.

The tourism minister was not made available for an interview. But in a statement to CBC News, he said, "Snowmobiling is an important component of our winter tourism product, contributing $28 million annually to the provincial economy.

"We feel the development of a snowmobile grooming hub at Mount Carleton Provincial Park will be an important source of economic development and tourism in the Restigouche area for years to come."

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