By SAM WANDIO
Nov. 3, 2011
Island Naturalist Ian Scott holds up a picture of a woodpecker the size of a crow taken by Island naturalist Shirley Gallant. The pileated woodpecker was thought extinct on the Island, but a specimen was sighted last winter.
It was seen in Strathgartney Provincial Park.
On Oct. 25., about 150 people gathered in front of Province House to protest plans to use up to seven per cent of the park.
The provincial government plans to build a bypass to allow motorists to avoid the winding roads around Churchill. The bypass is part of a plan to redesign a series of roadways leading to the Confederation Bridge.
P.E.I. Green Party Leader Sharon Labchuk organized the protest.
The project might be viable in larger provinces where there are more transport routes, she said.
“Our Trans-Canada Highway is still a two-lane highway. It’s kind of a pokey highway.”
There are other options, said Labchuk.
“There are other ways to deal with safety issues on this highway than destroying Strathgartney Provincial Park,” she said.
Jackie Waddell of the Island Nature Trust said although it is allowed under the Environmental Protection Act, the plan should not be allowed. The footprint from this project could be as much as 600 feet wide, said Waddell.
“If the provincial government tries to state this as a project that’s required to save energy, to save gas, it is not.”
It’s a sad commentary that this wouldn’t be the first time a plot of land has been de-designated as protected land, she said.
“A small plot of land out in St. Chrysostom out in western P.E.I. was de-designated earlier. But this second attempt is not going to be permitted.”
Scott said it’s a shame when governments are prepared to de-designate one of the few protected natural areas. The rare pileated woodpecker is extinct on the Island thanks to the destruction of old growth forests, he said.
“This bird has come back to its native land. It’s come back to the Island. But it’s only come back tentatively. This spring, a female was seen [in Strathgartney].”
“We have evidence the pileated is back, and we’ve got to help them,” said Scott.”
Barbara Harris of Island Trails, a non-profit group that encourages people to hike, had just returned from hiking in Strathgartney. Hiking in the park is an eye-opening experience and the provincial government needs to keep the hiking trails, she said.
“It is an exciting hiking venue. It’s a wonderful day-use park. Strathgartney is the starting point for a very extensive network of hiking trails.”
Bonshaw resident Tony Reddin said the government seems to be oversimplifying the choice they have to make.
“It seems the minister has put it as either we have a safe highway or we save the park, and I’m always dismayed when I see people putting it as it’s either black or white. There are other choices to make.”
Transportation minister Robert Vessey appeared at the protest to say public meetings are being held.
“These are proposals, and we’d love to hear your input, that’s why we’re having them. I want to hear from everyone, not only the Friends of Strathgartney Park. I also want to hear from the general public that use the road every day.”
During Vessey’s speech, Darth Vader’s theme from the Star Wars franchise played on a cellphone, unintentionally adding an ominous air to the speech.