New Brunswick

Ex-Mount Carleton manager says keep snowmobiles off it

A former manager at Mount Carleton says it is a "gem among provincial parks" and should not be home to snowmobiles.

Jean-Louis Deveau says zones should be drawn up to protect most sensitive areas from development

The former manager of Mount Carleton says turning the provincial park into a hub for snowmobiles in New Brunswick would have a harmful effect on the ecosystem.

Jean-Louis Deveau says the park should be broken up into zones to protect the most sensitive areas from development.

"I've already [seen] some impacts, some negative impacts, as a result of all the clearcutting that is taking place around the park. So if you add additional pressure from snowmobiles, yes it will have an impact on the wildlife of the park," Deveau said Tuesday on Information Morning Fredericton.

"If you're able to zone the park, you can say this area is exclusive to those who love nature … and this area we can set aside for development opportunities …[you can], actually develop a process, a foundation, a structure, which enables you to make those determinations," Deveau added.

The province is planning to expand some road and trails on the mountain, by building upon an existing utility road.

The utility trail up the mountain will be doubled in width to about 3.5 metres, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said on Friday.

In July, the provincial and federal governments announced a new snowmobile fuelling station and 343 kilometres of new trails for northwestern New Brunswick.

Tourism Minister Bill Fraser said the new grooming hub will also extend the snowmobiling season in northern New Brunswick by several weeks.

'Gem among provincial parks'

But Deveau says he's concerned about the consequences that increased activity would have on what he calls a "gem among provincial parks."

He points to Kouchibouguac National Park, which determined in its 2010 management plan to reduce trails accessible to snowmobiles to five kilometres, down from 25 kilometres.

"So here we have a park one-and-a-half times larger than Mount Carleton, and they are reducing the amount of trails available to snowmobiles by eight times," said Deveau.

The proposal is also a departure from the province's recent overhaul of the Parks Act, Deveau said.

In 2013, it was determined the best way to emphasize conservation and preservation was to develop a zoning system at provincial parks.

But this plan only risks opening the door to future development, he said.

"If we allow snowmobiles to have increased access to the park, what would prevent ATVs from approaching the minister and saying they want more access to the park as well? What about the possibility of developing a casino in the park, what about developing a major slide … where do you draw the line?" Deveau said.

"You draw the line with simply ensuring you follow rules and regulations that were discussed and approved by the minister, which now are featured prominently in the new Parks Act. That's not what's happening."

Fraser said on Friday the department should have been more "proactive" in letting groups know about the proposal. But he also said the project has been discussed in public in the past.

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