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Rocky Harbour's Michael Burzynski urging political pressure to reverse Western Brook trail project

Flooding issues, like that seen here in the spring of 2015, was one of the reasons Parks Canada reconstructed access to Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park.
Flooding issues, like that seen here in the spring of 2015, was one of the reasons Parks Canada reconstructed access to Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park. - Contributed

The road may be constructed, but Michael Burzynski is not about to forget what Parks Canada has done to one of his favourite walking trails in Gros Morne National Park.

Earlier this summer, the Rocky Harbour resident publicly lambasted Parks Canada for replacing the walking trail leading into the Western Brook Pond boat tour with what is essentially a forest access road.

Burzynski, who posted his rant on Facebook, said many of the features that brought the trail users close to the abundant nature alongside the trail have been lost with the wider gravel road.

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Parks Canada has defended its work, saying the old hiking trail was prone to flood damage and prevented people with mobility issues from also enjoying the Western Brook Pond experience. The national park also felt the heavy use the trail gets by tourists required it to be modified to better handle emergency situations.

In a more recent post on Facebook, Burzynski called for anyone who shares his dislike of the new path at Western Brook Pond to take action and apply political pressure to have the work reversed. He’s encouraging people to email federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, who is also responsible for the Parks Canada agency,

“We need pressure from everyone who cares about Gros Morne to get Parks Canada to do the right thing,” Burzynski wrote in the post as he asked anyone who read it to share his message.

He also urged people to be polite in making their concerns known to McKenna.

In an interview Monday, Burzynski said his email campaign seems to have plenty of support from local residents and folks from elsewhere who don’t like what has happened with the beloved trail.

“If they put the road in there, they can take it out,” he said.

Burzynski is worried the road is really meant to make boat tour operations more efficient and it opens Western Brook Pond up for further development in the future.

“It’s a creeping development that starts with a trail, then a road and ends up with a parking lot and a hotel on the shore of the lake,” he said. “This has happened at other national parks.”

Western Brook Pond is not just one of the main reasons why the Gros Morne area became a national park, noted Burzynski. It is also a major part of why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

He believes any further work should be halted and a full environmental assessment, from the perspective of the prestigious UNESCO designation, be conducted.

No one from Parks Canada was made available for an interview. In an emailed response, the agency reiterated that the work done at Western Brook Pond is not yet complete and it won’t be finished until 2019.

The current appearance of the trail, read the prepared statement from Parks Canada, does not reflect how the area will look in the future.

“The final surface has not been prepared and, as the disturbed areas alongside the trail re-vegetate and trees are planted, the trail will blend in more with its surroundings,” the email stated.

Parks Canada also noted how it had held public information sessions about this project prior to the work commencing and that the work was done using techniques that mitigated impacts on the area’s environment.

The agency said it will be holding community meetings in the fall to share additional information about this and other trail projects.

Burzynski said the full extent of the project was never disclosed at any of the meetings he has attended, even when Parks Canada officials were pressed by those present for more details.

“This had nothing to do with flooding, nothing to do with accessibility, had nothing to do with safety in getting ambulances in to save scores of people,” said Burzynski. “It’s entirely to get vehicles into the site of the lake. That’s why it’s built to those standards.”

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