East Coast Trail Association has lost its way

Published on August 21, 2014

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