Save P.E.I.’s first provincial park

By Wendell M. Profitt, as published in The Guardian September 28, 2011

Guest opinion

Editor:

I would like to add my support to the recent letters regarding the irresponsible proposal to divert the Trans-Canada Highway through Strathgartney Park. I endorse the very valid concerns expressed by Dr. Doug Sobey (Sept. 16), Carl Mathis (Sept. 17) and Sharon Labchuk (Sept. 22).

Strathgartney Provincial Park is an historic property, donated to the people of Prince Edward Island by Robert L. Cotton on the condition that it be developed as a provincial park to be treasured and used for the enjoyment of nature. Because of his public mindedness and forethought, Mr. Cotton is known as the “Father of Provincial Parks” on P.E.I. He was an environmentalist, a conservator and stewart of the land well ahead of his time. We must not depart from his basic tenants and requirements for the use of his generous donation — the valued land which became Strathgartney Park on July 1, 1958 — P.E.I.’s very first provincial park!

In my capacity as first director of provincial parks on P.E.I., Strathgartney Park opened and quickly became a popular destination campground and picnic area for residents and visitors alike. The panoramic view out over the countryside and down to the West River is no doubt one of the most scenic vistas in the provincial park network.

Trees were planted along the roadways and around the spring. Various facilities were constructed to add to the enjoyment of park users including water for washrooms — supplied by a hydraulic ram placed in the spring. A nature trail was built through the Acadian forest, playground equipment installed, a small display of native wild animals (foxes, raccoons, rabbits, skunks) was developed along with pony rides. In winter, Strathgartney had one of the first ski tows in the province.

The woodland of Strathgartney is unique in that it has a natural beech stand in addition to other native species such as sugar maple and birch. Beechwood was almost decimated in the province in a single year during the 1920s by the fungal disease, beech canker disease. Because of the rarity and importance of the woodland’s surviving natural beechwood, the

Strathgartney woodland area has been designated a Protected Natural Area under NAPA.

It was heartbreaking when the former government almost closed this beautiful park a few years ago. Now, the present government has a proposal to potentially divert the highway through this lovely, one-of-a-kind area, which would ruin it entirely! I oppose this thoughtless idea and hope other available options are pursued.

Please don’t wound this wonder of nature. Abandon the planned highway cut into the heart of historic Strathgartney Provincial Park.

Wendell M. Profitt of Charlottetown is a former director of P.E.I. Provincial Parks. The Island Nature Trust recently presented its 2011 Hon. J. Angus MacLean Natural Area Award to Mr. Profitt.

About Nature PEI

Nature PEI is the Natural History Society of Prince Edward Island.
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