The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has joined the chorus of opposition against modifications carried out by Parks Canada on the Western Brook Pond trail.
In the past few weeks, several people and groups have condemned the transformation of the trail from a relatively quaint hiking path with wooden boardwalks crossing bogs and wetlands to a wider gravel road that has far less character.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, a national non-profit conservation group founded in 1963 to help protect ecosystems in Canadian parks, wilderness and natural areas, said the changes made go beyond simply rehabilitating existing infrastructure.
In a statement released Tuesday, the society said the development footprint of the trail has been increased significantly, irreparably altering the character of the site and one of the park’s most iconic experiences.
“These changes are not in keeping with Parks Canada’s commitment to all Canadians to protect the natural and cultural heritage of our special places,” read the prepared statement.
The release went on to say the lack of a more fulsome environmental assessment of the project demonstrated little consideration for ecological integrity at Western Brook Pond and goes against parts of the Canada National Parks Act that stipulate maintaining a park’s ecological integrity has to be a top priority when it comes to managing it.
“Going forward with such dramatic changes to the trail without any public consultation demonstrates poor regard for public input, transparency, and accountability by Parks Canada,” said the release.
Parks Canada has stated it needed to upgrade the heavily used Western Brook Pond trail to make it more accessible to all who wish to enjoy the experience.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society added it has concerns about other infrastructure upgrades and developments in Gros Morne National Park that may be proceeding without adequate consultation with the public.
Infrastructure changes with the potential to impact Gros Morne’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site require Parks Canada to proceed with the utmost caution in their planning and management, stated the society’s press release, and there should be extensive public consultations.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is requesting that Parks Canada:
- Halt further road development into Western Brook Pond until a detailed impact assessment and thorough public consultation has been conducted
- Publicly release all documents which detail what research, decision-making, and evaluation processes were conducted leading up to the onset of infrastructure changes at Western Brook Pond
- Publicly release a detailed project list showing all projects being undertaken in Gros Morne National Park that utilize federal government infrastructure monies
- In the future, inform and involve local residents, visitors, and interested Canadians in development projects throughout the planning, development and construction phases.
Source: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society