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Straighten road…destroy a park

Prince Edward Island has a reputation for being a warm and welcoming province, with friendly people and great seafood.

Every time I’ve been to the island, I’ve always had an amazing time and formed memories that will last a lifetime. Anyone who has walked the beaches near Greenwich dunes, can’t help but be impressed with the awesomeness of Prince Edward Island.

But, every now and then, something whacky comes out of Prince Edward Island that catches people off-guard.  Like a proposal to change the alignment of the Trans-Canada Highway so that it goes through a provincial park.

And, it’s not just any provincial park, but Strathgartney Provincial Park, which contains some of the best remaining old forest on the island.

Quickly, here’s a bit of background.  The PEI government has a pot of federal money it needs to spend for the Atlantic Gateway initiative.  Three potential projects are being considered, mostly to straighten roads, including the proposal near Churchill to change the highway alignment so it goes through the provincial park.CPAWS is asking for the proposal that will destroy Strathgartney Provincial Park to be taken off-the-table immediately.

The proposal won’t actually remove the curve, it will just make it less curvy.  And, having travelled all over the Maritimes, this strikes me as a funny way to spend taxpayers money since Prince Edward Island already has (by far) the straightest roads in the Maritimes.  Anybody who has driven down the #7 Highway on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia knows that.

Putting this aside - that the province with the straightest roads in the Maritimes wants its roads to become even straighter – we’re still left with the odd situation of a provincial government shopping around for projects to spend money on and short-listing a project that will destroy a provincial park.

Only 2.1% of Prince Edward Island is protected.  That’s the smallest percentage of any province in Canada.  Quite frankly, PEI needs more parks and protected areas, not fewer.  Nearby Nova Scotia is at 9% protection and well on its way to 12%.  The federal target is 17%.  When it comes to protection, Prince Edward Island stands out as the worst in Canada.

Now, there are reasons for this.  PEI doesn’t have much public land remaining, which makes it hard to establish big protected areas without considerable investment over a long period of time, even compared to its Maritime neighbours which also don’t have much public land.  But, that also means that the few areas that are already protected need to be safeguarded from ill-conceived infrastructure projects like that being considered near Churchill, since there are so few other options for creating new protected areas on the island and boosting the percent protection from its current place at the bottom-of-the-pack.

Here’s hoping cooler heads prevail and that the proposal to destroy Strathgartney Provincial Park is taken off-the-table at once.

Let’s face it.  The province with the straightest roads in the Maritimes, doesn’t really need to make them any straighter.  Especially, when the cost of doing so comes at the expense of one of the few protected areas on the island.

~Chris Miller