East Coast Trail Association has lost its way

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There has been backlash lately against the East Coast Trail Association from a number of fronts.
It seems that for all the good work volunteers are doing developing and maintaining fantastic trails, the association is doing a poor job of working with and co-operating with stakeholders, particularly landowners.

We own land near the trail and, from the very start as we planned to develop the lot we contacted them to discuss our plan.

We are avid hikers and know the trail system well.

We loved the idea of living near the trail and volunteering to maintain and work on the trail.

We proposed going beyond the association’s regulation of a 15-metre setback for construction, offering 25 metres as an environmental protection zone as a natural buffer, free from fences or any disturbance of the natural landscape so that vegetation and ecosystems were protected.

The actual construction of any dwelling would be double what their regulations required.

Additionally we suggested to the town planner in our municipality to increase lot sizes in the trail area from a half acre to one acre to accommodate septic and water systems without destroying the landscape and clear-cutting trees.

All of this was communicated to the association in several emails.

We never heard back from them, except to say that our email was received.

Later we heard the president of the association in an interview on radio referring to our land and the association’s stand that they want NO development near the trail and that they are against us developing on our private land.

There was never any attempt on the association’s part to contact us or even discuss our proposal.

More recently at a public hearing in Witless Bay, the association representative had the gall to say that landowners should be happy with the fact that they own beautiful land and that the association supports large portions of land along the trail being frozen from any development.

When asked if they are willing to compensate landowners for the loss of their land, the answer was no.

There was a statement made that there are always “casualities” and that some must be sacrificed. As far as we know, Putin has not yet landed on the shores of Newfoundland.

The East Coast Trail was founded in co-operation with landowners. Our experience is that that this founding philosophy has been lost.

We no longer trust the association to respect our rights and because of that we do not support the association.

We do believe in the trail system and the right of anyone to walk along the ocean and enjoy the beauty of the Newfoundland coastline, without any barriers. Nobody owns the coastline.

However, the trail should not come at the expense of landowners.

Just recently we put up land markers and private property signs on our land along the trail as a protest.

That portion of our land would have been left natural and open if the association had been respectful and discussed the matter with us.

We caution all landowners along the Southern Shore and the East Coast Trail to beware of the association and we suggest the association develop a more open and honest approach if they hope to move forward.

AnnMarie Callahan Churchill

St. John’s

Organizations: Trail Association

Geographic location: East Coast, Witless Bay, Newfoundland.The East Newfoundland Southern Shore

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Recent comments

  • Dieter Plautz
    August 25, 2014 - 08:48

    The attack on the East Coast Trail is totally unwarranted and spiteful. This is simply the case of developers not getting what they want. Ms. Churchill omitted to mention that her and her husband wanted to use their small plot of land, which they recently purchased and which may actually be crown land, plus additional crown land to develop a residential subdivision on Ragged Beach. In this particular case, the council turned down the developers request to rezone the land in question from rural to residential not because of the East Coast Trail but because the access road does not meet town standards and to bring it up to standard would, among other considerations, have required the expropriation of private land. The new town council has had the courage to say no to further coastal development and is in the process of asking the provincial government to set aside the area as a crown reserve. It has also had the foresight to require a minimum lot size of 1 acre for new subdivisions. The developers are now in full attack mode, led by the Churchill's as they still believe, for some reason, that their self interest should prevail over that of the residents and the community.

  • L. Locket
    L. Locket
    August 23, 2014 - 13:35

    I'm not sure where Ms Churchill lives (last I heard it was ON) but I live here in the land of the East Coast Trail, and I have heard no backlash against the ECT. A short lived controversy about whether bikes should be allowed on a trail system designed (and with approvals) for hiking only, was started by a business trying to claim some entitlement to do what they wanted. Much like Ms Churchill it seems; you know, entitled to do what they want, and make money off it, regardless of consequences for others. Consequences like expropriation of family lands to construct access to the land in question; and consequences for the birds, like the baby pufflings who leave their nests this time of year, and who would be hugely impacted by the lights from the development Ms Churchill thought she could build. All these concerns, and more, have been communicated to everyone concerned, by citizens, nature lovers, and biology experts. I suggest Ms Churchill check out the zoning of any future land she buys, and the issues concerned with trying to change that zoning. Feeling entitled, and blaming others seldom works well, I find.

  • Wanda
    August 23, 2014 - 12:35

    The letter is a little misleading. Yes the East Coast Trail disagreed with development in that area….but not one home as Mrs. Churchill suggests. It was the Churchill's attempt to secure 6 acres of crown land and build a subdivision in the area that was the concern. And then those pesky locals who wouldn't agree to the town expropriating land from at least 5 land owners in order to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars upgrading a road - at the cost to the town - for the Churchills to access their subdivision, that was a bit of a problem too I guess. The Churchills tried to pull a fast one in Witless Bay at great expense to the town, the local people, and the protection of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. They were stopped and rightfully so. Suck it up and move on.

  • Ron Tizzard
    August 22, 2014 - 11:27

    My wife and I, and variably with some friends, have trodden the magnificent paths of the East Coast Trail for several years. The current euphemistic knocking of heads between both parties is lamentable, to say the very least. It's time to put the rhetoric, and the 'he-said, she-said', comments aside. The entire substance of the debate should be taken out of the public media, and discussed civilly between the Association, affected land-owners, and respective government representation. KEEP LAWYERS out of discussions...unless absolutely necessary, in the final analysis. But, the matter needs to be resolved, once and for all,...NO GOOD can be derived from the continuation of the current public nonsense. Publically, the issue is giving both the Trail Association a black-eye, the 'affected' property owners unrest. BOTH PARTIES NEED TO SIT AND TALK.

  • M
    August 21, 2014 - 14:24

    All of Newfoundland and Labrador should be careful when they are asked to give away crown lands to any group. They take an inch but demand a mile in the end as we see here. Beware the hiking trail groups, marine protected areas, etc. They will always seek to limit access to the land or water they are granted and that which surrounds it. Any time the sale of public land to private groups is mentioned we hear screams from the public about the privitization of public land. These groups are the seeking the same thing; they just wrap up their request in a 'not-for-profit' moniker and expect to be successful. Time to wake up on this stuff.

  • Umm What
    August 21, 2014 - 12:15

    They invented this thing called a telephone not long ago. You thought that it would be more expedient to write the Evening Telegram rather than actually calling them?