New Brunswick boasts a variety of provincial parks, serving both to conserve nature and to provide recreational opportunities for citizens and tourists.
Although these parks are all on provincially-owned (Crown) land, some are operated by the Department of Tourism and Parks, some controlled by the Department of Natural Resources, and some are operated by private companies or communities. As a result, conditions at these parks vary greatly.
Parks operated by the Department of Tourism and Parks are:
Parks privately managed include:
Other parks in our province controlled by the Department of Natural Resources (some of which have been closed but remain "on the books") are:
Provincial Parks – Safeguarding nature, focus on recreation, or both?
Some might think that that New Brunswick’s provincial parks were created for the enjoyment of outdoor activities and the protection of the natural areas within them.
Many would be surprised to learn that until late 2014, the natural areas within provincial parks were not as protected as they hope. According to the old Parks Act, provincial parks are for “healthful enjoyment and education” and “shall be maintained for the benefit of future generations”.
The Act did not mention protecting natural features or habitats. Subject to some conditions, many activities which might be considered “un-park-like” were technically permissible, including the construction of quarries and commercial forestry, or other developments that remove natural areas.
Provincial parks are now “dedicated to residents of the Province, visitors and future generations to:
(a) permanently protect ecosystems, biodiversity and the elements of natural and cultural heritage,
(b) provide opportunities for recreational and outdoor educational activities to promote a healthy lifestyle,
(c) provide opportunities to increase knowledge and appreciation of the natural and cultural heritage of the Province, and
(d) offer a tourism product that enhances the Province’s image as a quality vacation destination." 1982, c.P-2.1, s.2; 2014, c.51, s.2 1
The Act also prohibits mining, the building of quarries and logging in all provincial parks.
Previously, comparing the old Parks Act with the rules that govern Canada’s National Parks, which in New Brunswick includes Fundy National Park and Kouchibouguac National Park, was bleak. The National Parks Act says, “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.” (section 8.2)
The national parks system, unlike the provincial parks system, places the interest of the preservation of the environment before economic considerations. While the amended provincial Parks Act does not explicitly say that the interest of the preservation of the environment comes before economic interests, hopefully the first line of the mandate, which promises to permanently protect ecosystems and biodiversity, will hold true.
When the environment is not the first priority for New Brunswick provincial parks, development may occur within the parks that places the environment in jeopardy. Two such events have happened in the recent past. The first was in Mactaquac Provincial Park in summer 2008, when trees were cut down for the creation of a tree-top adventure business, including zip lines. Within this relatively natural area (previously used for nature hikes and outdoor education), trees were removed from the edge of a creek. Many logs fell into the water, as well as down to the water’s edge.
The second event was summer 2009 at Mount Carleton Provincial Park. While upgrading existing cabins in the park, forests between the cabins and a lake were removed, again down to the water’s edge.
In both cases, existing ecological processes were endangered by development. With the new Parks Act we hope that these types of developments will have to go through a more rigorous approval process, with more safeguards in place to protect the nature in parks.
To ensure that New Brunswick’s provincial parks continue to be “dedicated to future generations” and to “permanently protect biodiversity and ecosystems”, CPAWS NB believes that government needs to begin working towards park management that mirrors the recent changes made to the provincial park legislation and regulations. Now that we have laws that make ecological integrity a priority for our parks system, and that require conservation management plans for our parks, we would like to see the first steps towards the implementation of these regulations.
The National parks system requires individual management plans for all their parks, which includes “a long-term ecological vision for the park, a set of ecological integrity objectives and indicators and provisions for resource protection and restoration, zoning, visitor use, public awareness and performance evaluation” (Canada National Parks Act, Section 11.1). The development of similar plans, which are now required under the Parks Act, would ensure that any development within provincial parks in the future would be consistent with nature conservation. CPAWS NB would like to see management plans begin to be developed by the province for all provincial parks, and for the province to involve the public in the process.
Submission made to the Department of Environment and Local Government for the Environmenal Assessment of the the proposal to further develop snowmobile trails within Mount Carleton Provincial Park, Nov.21, 2016.
Public Engagement for New Brunswick's Provincial Parks, by Kelsey Butler
A Guide to Management Planning by K. Binns, K. Butler, P. Lavallee, L. Medved and R. Scott