New Brunswick

Rock thieves may be endangering salt marsh at Cape Enrage

The Nature Trust is worried the removal of thousands of stones from the beach at Cape Enrage by people looking to landscape their properties may be endangering the important ecosystem there.

Nature Trust wants people to enjoy the area's beauty, but leave the stones alone

The beach at Cape Enrage. People have been gathering stones here, sometimes as much as a truckload at a time, mostly for use in landscaping. (Jessica Bradford/Submitted by Nature Trust NB)

Cape Enrage is one of New Brunswick's natural treasures.

Located about 20 kilometres east of Fundy National Park, the point juts out into the Bay of Fundy. Its high cliffs, rocky beach and protected salt marsh provide some of the region's prettiest views.

But the Nature Trust of New Brunswick, which owns the nature preserve there, is concerned some of the area's treasures are going missing.

"So it's 29.9 hectares and the rocks on the beach are, yeah, beautiful, rounded, cobble rocks," said Bethany Young, the Nature Trust's stewardship manager told CBC Radio's Shift.

And it's those rocks that seem to attract the attention of people who want to take them home, sometimes by the truckload. 

Barn Marsh at Cape Enrage is an important ecosystem. The rocky beach in front of it helps to protect it from tides and storm surges. (Nature Trust NB)

"In the last few years, we've been noticing it more and more," Young said.

"And the signs that have been put up over the years, some by the Department of Natural Resources back in the early 2000s and some by us in more recent years, the signs haven't really been helping deter people."

Young said most people are gathering the rocks to use as landscaping on their properties, although some are running small businesses, using them as a canvas to paint scenes and figures.

It may not seem like a big deal to take some rocks off a beach, but Young said it's what's behind the beach that worries the Nature Trust.

"The real concern for us is that this barrier beach … it protects Barn Marsh. So that's a salt marsh, and it's a really important ecosystem for many different species," she said.

"The power of the ocean is so strong that at high tide, the highest tide when the moon is full, brings a lot of water into the salt marsh, a lot of saltwater from the ocean, and that's a natural process," Young said.

Bethany Young of Nature Trust of New Brunswick. (Nature Trust NB)

"But by people removing rocks, we're making that happen more often than what is natural." 

The Nature Trust is not really sure what effect too much saltwater might have on the marsh, and it certainly doesn't want to find out.

And as storm surges are becoming increasingly common because of climate change, the Nature Trust wants to ensure the practice of removing stones from the beach comes to an end.

Young said most people they speak to aren't even aware they're not supposed to take the stones, but it is illegal.

Even the concrete barriers at Cape Enrage warn against taking stones, but it doesn't seem to deter people from doing it. (Nature Trust NB)

Along with its importance as an ecosystem, Cape Enrage is also one of the best places in New Brunswick to find fossils. Some have dated back to the earliest forms of animal life in the region, about 320 million years ago.

So the area is also protected under the province's Heritage Conservation Act.

Young said the organization is working with the province to discourage the removal of any more stones from the beach.

"We're going to continue to work with the conservation officers there and, you know, try to kind of catch people in the act. If it continues to be a problem there, they can issue fines."

The beauty of Cape Enrage. The Nature Trust encourages people to visit and experience the natural beauty here but to leave the rocks alone. (Nature Trust NB)

The group is also considering installing cameras on the telephone poles near the beach as a deterrent.

But Young stressed they still want people to visit the area.

"It's a really beautiful site and we want people to come beach walk and picnic and observe the wildlife. Photography is encouraged … we just hope that the rock removal can stop, so that this place can continue to be enjoyed by future generations."

With files from Shift

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