Aboiteau becomes 1st Blue Flag-certified beach in New Brunswick

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Aboiteau becomes 1st Blue Flag-certified beach in New Brunswick

A blue flag could mean a lot of green for a coastal New Brunswick community.

Aboiteau Beach in Cap-Pelé has been awarded the Blue Flag designation, an international standard indicating beaches that are, among other things, safe and meet strict criteria for water quality.

Only 26 other Canadian beaches will raise the blue flag this year, and Aboiteau Beach will be the first in New Brunswick.

While the designation shows a concerted effort to protect the environment, the municipality is hopeful it will be a boon for the tourism industry.

"It's going to support our local business and bring the tourists to town," said Cap-Pelé Mayor Serge Léger. "It's going to create more visibility and profitability."

He said tourism during the warmer months is a crucial revenue source for the village.

"We need it to survive year-round," he told Shift New Brunswick.

Tourist draw

The Blue Flag program is an annual "eco-certification" for beaches and marinas across the world. Selected areas have met stringent criteria that show a jury, and later tourists, the location is clean and accessible, meets high water and safety standards and strives to protect local ecosystems.

"Millions of tourists around the world look for a Blue Flag when choosing a beach or marina to visit. And there's a good reason for that," said Kelsey Scarfone, Blue Flag program manager with Environmental Defence, in a release.

"When you see a Blue Flag raised at a beach or marina, you know that it's clean, sustainably managed and a safe place to swim. Great family vacations start with finding a Blue Flag."

Environmental Defence Canada administers the program in Canada.

Water quality issues

The Village of Cap-Pelé decided in 2015 it would seek a blue flag and spent the next three years adhering to criteria outlined in a dense 43-page document.

The committee went through Blue Flag's checklist of 33 strict criteria, including everything from having an appropriate number of lifeguards at the beach to clean and accessible restrooms.

Léger said the work also included water quality testing, environmental assessments to ensure the preservation of its dunes and building a wheelchair accessible ramp.

Aboiteau Beach has struggled with poor water quality. Tests revealed the presence of fecal bacteria over safe swimming levels on some days in 2016, setting back hopes for the Blue Flag designation.

Léger said they improved the quality by cleaning the beach every day and monitoring incoming water sources. The levels will need to remain high if they want to retain the designation next year.

"We got it all done after three years and $120,000," he said, "but we're proud to have the blue flag."

A flag raising ceremony will be held June 17.