New Brunswick

Downhill slide for trails predicted when council closes because of provincial cuts

The New Brunswick Trails Council is pessimistic about the future health of the recreational trail system in New Brunswick after the group shuts down this month.

New Brunswick Trails Council will close Oct. 31 after 25 years in operation

Judy Wilson-Shee, president of the New Brunswick Trails Council, says if the trails aren't maintained, people won't use them. (CBC)

The New Brunswick Trails Council is pessimistic about the future of the trail system in New Brunswick after the group shuts down this month.

"Quite honestly, they'll go downhill very fast," said Judy Wilson-Shee, president of the New Brunswick Trails Council, which is based in the Fredericton area. "And over the last few years, maintenance hasn't been to the standard that it should be.

The nonprofit organization, which has been building and maintaining trails across the province for 25 years, wasn't able to get the funding it needs from the provincial government to keep going. 

"If it keeps going that way, and if another group does not come forward and help out with the maintenance, then the trails will be in very, very bad shape."

The council said it used to receive $48,000 from the Department of Tourism each year. It also had a contract with the Department of Energy and Resource Development to do maintenance work.

But over the years, the group went from being able to maintain 1,200 kilometres of trails on railway beds across the province to just 400 kilometres of trails.

Now what?

Wilson-Shee said the province told the council last year that it would have to stop bidding on maintenance contracts for trails on Crown land because the provincial funding from Tourism put the group in a conflict of interest. 

"They just did not want us involved, bidding on those contracts anymore," she said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

"The only reason they gave was a conflict of interest."  

Trails within a municipality are owned by the city or town, but trails on Crown land are owned by the province, and it's up to the provincial government to decide what happens to those trails, Wilson-Shee said. 

"Who's going to look after trails on Crown land and keep them up to par?"

 
The New Brunswick Trails Council has been told by government there is no money available for them this year. Judy Wilson-Shee is President of the New Brunswick Trails Council. She says people on the board are 'very emotional' about the closure. 10:46
 

After several meetings this year, the board decided to close the council as early as Oct. 31. The board notified the province about the closing date and didn't hear back. 

The province would not make anyone available for an interview with CBC News.

In an email, government spokesperson Stéphanie Bilodeau said the province is confident the trails will be kept up by municipalities, regional service commissions, trail managers and user groups. 

Public relies on trail system

Wilson-Shee said the decision was an emotional one for council members. 

"There are some people that have been there since day one, for 25 years. … Everybody that comes to the table, they have the expertise, they are very, very dedicated. And they have given their time."

Wilson-Shee said the trail system is "very important to the province," and many people rely on them for walking and cycling.

"If the trails go downhill that means that less people will use the trails because of safety issues. We want people to get out, be active and use the trails.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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