Protection de nos sentiers paisibles

David Peterson décrit son travail sur le réseau de sentiers au Nouveau-

"La protection permanente de Sentier NB Trail et de d’autres sections de sentiers non motorisés au Nouveau-
Brunswick est une responsabilité majeure de Sentiers Nouveau-
Brunswick Inc.", dit-il. Il nous parle également de plusieurs programmes disponibles et des nombreux bienfaits de tels sentiers.  


Protecting our
Quiet Trails

   David Peterson,
   President, New Brunswick Trails Council Inc.
February 2000


hen I was asked to help save the abandoned rail line between Fredericton and Mactaquac for use as a walking trail, I thought the toughest fight would be over when the trail was established and we had educated trail users as to proper trail etiquette and demonstrated to the adjacent property owners how well it would work when it was finished. The Valley Trail, as it is now identified, is open within the limits of the City of Fredericton and we have completed hundreds of kilometres of additional trail throughout New Brunswick. Unfortunately for me, that turned out to be the easy part of the process. The most difficult work has been fighting off the latecomers, the ATVers, who were so impressed by what we had accomplished that they decided they should be entitled to move in with their high-powered machines and take over. Some of them may best be described as trail terrorists, trespassing on other peoples' property, destroying gates, signs, treadway and harassing non-motorized users throughout rural and urban New Brunswick. Why is that some people think that purchasing a $10,000 machine gives you the right to trespass, to drive on public roads, destroy water courses and dig huge trenches in the earth?

In the last century the automobile developed to the point that we could no longer use the road system for walking, horse-drawn equipment or cycling. Many decades later we finally found a safe place for pedestrians to enjoy the outdoors with their families, and once again the motorized vehicles want us to share it with them. Many of the "letter writers" in support of the motorized-vehicle recreationalist tend to immediately diminish the importance of the intrinsic environmental and true recreational benefits of trails and greenway corridors. Their arguments are always economic; ATVers pay taxes, buy gas, food and beverages, and would even be willing to pay a small fee for the opportunity to dominate our trail system. Consider the cost to the taxpayer of the ATV related permanent injuries, the health care cost to the taxpayer for our failure to improve the overall health of Canadians, the cost of liability insurance to the trail managers, the cost of maintenance to repair the damage they inflict on the trail and the price we all pay for their noise pollution and exhaust emissions that ruin the natural environment for other trail users and adjacent property owners. A recent study of the World Health Organization indicated that physical activity reduces the risk of "coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, colon cancer, back pain, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, anxiety and stress." In any event, the non-monetary value of open space should continue to be the primary emphasis in conservation efforts.


Recent surveys indicate that 
walking is the most popular
physical activity of over
85% of Canadians


Over the last several years motorized-vehicle recreationalists have invested thousands of dollars in high-powered vehicles, knowing full well that they had no place to operate them. The flatness and straightness of those sections of our trails on abandoned rail rights-of-way allows them to travel at top speeds. A motorized vehicle increases the range of the motorized recreationalist, but also raises the severity of the impact to the environment. The noise, speed and weight of ATV's renders them largely incompatible with conservation and adjacent land uses with environmental sensitivity. Additionally, they are the subject of complaint in residential and agricultural areas.

Approximately 4% of New Brunswick residents own ATVs. Compare that to walking and cycling. Recent surveys indicate that walking is the most popular physical activity of over 85% of Canadians and 66% of Canadians report that they would like to cycle more often.

Walkers, hikers, runners, cyclists, equestrians, cross-country skiers and snow walkers have invested a great effort in developing the Sentier NB Trail as a safe environment, one that does not contain motorized vehicles. The New Brunswick Trails Council Inc. is dedicated to high quality recreation experiences for citizens and visitors of New Brunswick through promotion, education, facilitation and other functions required for the development and management of a world class trail system.

(photo: Sentier NB Trails Inc.)

We are currently involved in three major projects; The Trans Canada Trail, Sentier NB Trail and The International Appalachian Trail. The Trans Canada Trail winds its way through every Province and Territory in Canada, linking thousands of communities along its route. It will be the longest trail in the world, spanning approximately 15,000 km. The Trans Canada Trail will accommodate walking, cycling, horseback riding, cross country skiing and, where possible, snowmobiling. In New Brunswick if a portion of the trail allows snowmobiling, the snowmobilers will have the exclusive use of the trail during the winter season. The International Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail beginning at Mount Katahdin, Maine winding through New Brunswick to Parc Forillon in the Gaspe region of Quebec. Sentier NB Trail is a 2400 km. trail with the same five core activities as the Trans Canada Trail.

In March of 1995 our report, "Leading To A Provincial Trail System For New Brunswick", established as one of its four objectives for Sentier NB Trail, "to facilitate a greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of the natural bio-physical, human, cultural and scenic diversity of New Brunswick". The task force recognized that potential exists for interpretation and educational activities. Interpretive vistas and observation points for viewing wildlife, bird nesting areas and unique plant systems could be organized by Local Trail Sponsors. We believe in providing a system that will preserve and enhance the natural environment and increase public awareness of that environment.

The task force realized that preservation of a trail corridor for non-motorized recreational uses provided a lower impact on ecosystems than most other uses and at the same time a green space provided a habitat for wildlife. Other possible ecol- ogical benefits of Sentier NB Trail include: offering alternative transportation means; serving as a buffer zone to watersheds and wetlands; providing access to rivers and lakes; protecting ecosystems; and providing green spaces for the enjoyment of current and future generations. The diverse natural features of the province provide an excellent setting for education and interpretative opportunities by bringing students closer to New Brunswick's natural heritage and the environment.

In five years we have established a very active New Brunswick Trails Council Inc. with over eighty Local Trail Sponsors (community based volunteer groups) and many partners including The Trans Canada Trail Foundation, Canadian Geographic, Go For Green and Friends of the Environment Foundation, as well as several government agencies.

We have produced, developed and are involved in:

  • a newsletter, "Trail News"
  • a bilingual educational workbook, "Come Hike and Bike with Ranger Robin", which is free of charge to elementary schools in N.B.
  • a Trail Club made up of retailers who offer discounts to our members
  • a Provincial Trail Patrol to monitor activity along the trail, to provide first aid, minor equipment repairs, assistance, tourism information and to encourage compliance with trail regulations and etiquette.
  • an Adopt-A-Trail program encouraging everyone to take responsibility for a section of trail.

Most importantly we have completed 900 km. of trail to cycling standards, with another 300 km. available for other limited uses.

We are also working on an inventory of biophysical features to be found along Sentier NB Trail. The goal is to generate a complete record of the features that can be experienced along Sentier NB Trail, such as rivers, ecosystems and forest types, rare plants, scenic views and vistas, gorges, escarpments, waterfalls, bogs, lakes, settlements, trail access points and historical and cultural sites such as old train stations, cemeteries and covered bridges.

We are presently developing a strategy to complete and manage Sentier NB Trail. There will be two partners in the development and management of Sentier NB Trail; the Government of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Trails Council Inc. Our original intent was that Sentier NB Trail would be a community based system managed by community-based groups under the co-ordination of their umbrella organization the New Brunswick Trails Council Inc.

Permanent protection of Sentier NB Trail and other non-motorized trails in New Brunswick is a major responsibility of the New Brunswick Trails Council Inc. We cannot do it without your help. The silent majority are at risk of losing more than they can imagine. We welcome your participation and support. Please contact our office on our toll free number 1-800-526-7070.