Nature PEI

Strathgartney needs protection not pavement

 Editorial Published on October 1, 2011 in The Guardian

Transportation officials should stay clear of the park in improving highway in Churchill

One wonders about the thought process in our provincial Department of Transportation to even consider blasting a roadway through Strathgartney Park to divert the Trans-Canada Highway around the big curve in the Bonshaw hills at Churchill. The land in Strathgartney was donated to the province by Robert L. Cotton on condition it be turned into a provincial park for the enjoyment of all Islanders. The property officially opened as P.E.I.’s first provincial park July 1, 1958.

The park is a popular destination campground and picnic area for residents and visitors alike. A nature trail was built through the Acadian forest, unique in that it has a natural beech stand in addition to other native species such as sugar maple and birch. Strathgartney Park is part of an extensive system of hiking and mountain biking trails that are used extensively by the general public in all seasons.

The key reason for the bypass proposal is to appease motorists, especially truckers, by taking out the steep incline and decline on a wide curve at Churchill. It’s true the steep climb up the hill is tough on truckers but it’s one of the few such climbs on the entire highway.

If there is federal money available for the Trans-Canada Highway for bypasses and straightening out the road, why isn’t is being used to construct the much-needed and much talked about bypass around the town of Cornwall instead of bulldozing into one of the most picturesque sites on P.E.I.?

There is no question our main highway is in need of upgrades. The Trans Canada needs a lot of work from Borden to Charlottetown, as any motorist will attest. Money would be better spent on overall improvements, while upgrading, widening or taking out some of the elevation in at Churchill would make much more sense than trying to blast through the park.

The local community rallied in support of the park when the previous government was going to close it down, and it may require another such strong public demonstration to save the park. One also wonders how the province could de-list the park when it was deeded over for that use only. It all makes no sense.

Many Islanders and environmental groups interested in preserving sensitive habitat are convinced the only areas worth protecting on P.E.I. are shorelines and dune systems. We do have valuable properties inland and Strathgartney Park is one of those sites.

The debate over Strathgartney entered the political election campaign when Green Party Leader Sharon Labchuk staged a press conference at the site to condemn any plans to construct a road through the park. Labchuk is circulating a petition to try and stop any development through the park before it starts. It’s a hot button item the government should pursue at its own peril.

Transportation Minister Ron MacKinley may want to improve the highway between Churchill and Borden-Carleton but his engineers would be well advised to develop and approve a plan whichdoesn’t include paving paradise.

Spicing up our streets

Urban planner Gil Penalosa didn’t take long to label Charlottetown streets as rather dull. He says most routes taking motorists, cyclists and pedestrians through the capital city need more life because they look like any road anywhere.

The Birthplace of Confederation does need something unique to make a lasting impression on visitors while giving residents a sense they live in a very special place in this country. Penalosa told workshops here this week that Charlottetown needs more spice throughout its network of streets.

The expert in transformation of cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks and public places certainly has many ideas that can impact positively on the city. Let’s hope some of his ideas are incorporated into the city’s sustainability plan. We have to start somewhere.

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