Mount Carleton hub pushed through, says ex-park manager
Provincial government is seeking public input on draft regulation, which includes a map of the snowmobile hub
The former manager of Mount Carleton Park says the New Brunswick government has found a backdoor way to move forward with the proposed snowmobile hub without a park management plan.
The provincial government has posted a draft regulation on its website amending the Off-Road Vehicle Act to include a description of the snowmobile hub, which includes a fuelling station and opening up 343 kilometres of trails.
Jean-Louis Deveau, the former park manager, said instead of going through the Parks Act, which would require the government to create a park management plan, the provincial government has used the Off-Road Vehicle Act to enact the hub.
"It certifies that this is a done deal," said Deveau.
"It circumvents the complexities [of going] through the front door, which is with consultations in developing a management plan ... it's a brilliant strategy on the part of the government, but it's a slap in the face."
It's a sneaky way to put snowmobiles before the animals in the area.- Ron Tremblay, Grand Chief for the Maliseet Grand Council
A park management plan is essentially a blueprint determining activities allowed in the protected area, which became mandatory for all provincial parks under the Parks Act in 2014.
Deveau, along with the Maliseet Grand Council, is taking the government to court over the province's plan to build the snowmobile hub.
They've filed a judicial review over the absence of a park management plan, a full environmental impact assessment and concerns over the hub endangering the park's ecosystem.
Bill Fraser, who was the province's tourism minister when he spoke on the issue, has said it will take some time before a plan is developed for Mount Carleton and other provincial parks.
"[It] in no way guarantees the establishment of the grooming hub," said Jason Hoyt, spokesperson for the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture.
Hoyt also said the change to the legislation relates to expanding snowmobile trail services.
"The public consultation is on whether they support the extension of the snowmobile season by two weeks," said Hoyt.
Ron Tremblay, the Grand Chief for the Maliseet Grand Council, questions the provincial government's response.
"Why did they wait till last minute at legislature to push through [the amendment] then?" said Tremblay.
The amendment to the Off-Road Vehicle Act, which determines where and when off-road vehicles can move around in the province, was passed on June 28.
Public input on the draft regulation is open until Aug. 12.
"It's a sneaky way to put snowmobiles before the animals in the area," Tremblay said.
Deveau said he worries the amendment sets a dangerous precedent for the government to move forward without park management plans at other provincial parks in New Brunswick.
"It says to the First Nation people that have been consulted on the management plan that it was all for nothing," said Deveau.
In April, chiefs from the Kingsclear, Oromocto and Tobique First Nations met with Fraser about plans for the provincial park.
Tremblay and Deveau's court case has been pushed back from June to September. The Maliseet Grand Council launched a crowdfunding campaign last month to help cover legal fees.
The snowmobile hub was initially announced by the provincial government in July 2015.