New Brunswick

Hope grows as Parlee Beach gets environmental nod

Parlee Beach and Shediac Bay Yacht Club have both been awarded the Blue Flag, an international environmental recognition for beaches, marinas and sustainable boating tourism operators.

Blue Flag designation comes after three consecutive summers of water-quality problems

Parlee Beach is an important tourist attraction for New Brunswick and Shediac, but the effects of water-quality problems last year are still being felt in the community. (CBC News)

Parlee Beach and Shediac Bay Yacht Club have both been awarded the Blue Flag, an international environmental recognition for beaches and marinas worldwide.

 Aboiteau Beach in Cap Pelé will also fly the flag for the second year.

The recognition comes after three consecutive summers of water-quality problems at Parlee Beach in Shediac.

The province issued no-swimming advisories on 14 days between May and the end of September last year because water samples showed elevated bacteria levels.

According to the Blue Flag website, "to qualify for this prestigious award, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria must be met and maintained."

The quality criteria are based on a percentage compliance for the total season, said Kelsey Scarfone, the water programs manager with Environmental Defence, the group that administers the award in Canada.   

Parlee Beach met an 88 per cent compliance with Blue Flag's criteria.

"So 11 of those advisories were actually posted due to a high result, and some of them were precautionary to just let people know that — and this is true for all beaches — let people know that after heavy rainfall, it's likely that E. coli could jump up temporarily and then go back down," she said.

The fee to apply for the certification is $1,250.

Ron Cormier, president of the Greater Shediac Chamber of Commerce, is upbeat about Parlee Beach's chances of becoming as busy as ever. (CBC News)

The advisories in recent years have hurt local businesses and the beach's tourism prospects.

Last year, the number of people who paid to park at Parlee Beach declined by 35 per cent compared to two years previous.

"We went through a bit of a hiccup the last couple years," said Ron Cormier, president of the Greater Shediac Chamber of Commerce and operator of Shediac Bay Cruises.  

"It hurt. It hurt businesses, it hurt the image and the value takes a little bit of a dive."

Cormier is optimistic the recognition will help change attitude toward the beach.

The Blue Flag certification must be renewed each year.

With files from CBC's Shift and Karin Reid-LeBlanc

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