New campsite planned for Aboiteau Beach concerns residents

1 / 4
New campsite planned for Aboiteau Beach concerns residents

News of the latest campground proposal for the southeast shore arrived by flyer in Cap-Pelé mailboxes just two weeks ago, describing a 273-site trailer park at Aboiteau Beach.

Camping Plage Aboiteau registered an environmental impact assessment with the province a month ago and developers hope to begin construction as soon as September with a view of opening for the 2018 season.

It all comes as a surprise to some residents who say they should have been consulted sooner.

"I was very shocked," said Natasha Bell, who lives in Cap-Pelé. "The municipality didn't really make much noise about it, not until it was almost a done deal. Which is where we're at now."

In May 2014, the village of Cap-Pelé sent a request for proposals, to develop the land for campground use.

The request closed two weeks later, at which time the municipality had received only one submission.

Since then, Cap Pelé's municipal council adopted an amended zoning by-law, to allow the land to be developed for commercial use.

"We've done everything we were supposed to as a municipality," said Serge Léger, mayor of Cap-Pelé. "There were no complaints at that time."

Drainage issues

The campground would be built within Aboiteau Park, just behind Les Chalets de l'Aboiteau, halfway between the beach and Route 133.  

Pierre Gagnon, who also lives in Cap-Pelé, said there are important drainage issues in the area, with the chalets edging a provincially significant wetland.

"The wetlands, I guess it took them 20 years to reclaim their due," said Gagon. "And basically the cottages have sunk by approximately, I'd say, two feet on average. The crawl space is flooding every spring. There are issues."

The campground's environmental impact assessment outlines similar risks at the proposed site, and includes a recommendation for an engineer to provide a drainage plan.

But Gagnon wonders if the project will be approved before all environmental issues have been addressed.

"It's key to the project. And it hasn't been done," he said.

Gagnon said he would be more comfortable with the project had it been proposed on the other side of Route 133, further away from wetlands and the coast, as he believes the environmental impact would not be as great.

Taxpayer subsidized?

The proposed project sits on Crown land owned by the Department of Energy and Resource Development that is currently being leased to the Village of Cap-Pelé, and will be sub-leased as of August to the developer.

The campground's wastewater system would be connected to the existing municipal sewer system on Allée du Parc.  

Gagnon believes the municipality would foot the sewer bill, as the project states the proponents are not responsible for costs outside the project's boundaries.

"We'd like to know how it's going to affect the taxpayers," he said. "We don't think it's right that it goes into private hands, subsidized by taxpayers' money, and then it kind of jeopardizes the whole ecosystem at the beach."

'When do you stop?'

Beyond those issues though, is a sense from residents that they dont want to see their village — or New Brunswick for that matter — go in that direction.

"There's a recurring story that's going on all along this coastline," said Bell. "To me it seems like it's the lowest common denominator — clear cut a park, bring in some trailers, we can generate some money."

Bell said she would like to see New Brunswick take a more sustainable approach toward how it develops its coastline, especially in light of water quality issues at some of its beaches.

"We really need to just slow things down a little bit. Look at where we want to go," she said. "Before we run, we need to learn how to walk."

Gagnon would also like to see the province consider a different way of doing things.

"The whole coastline is basically being attacked on all sides," he said. "You have Shediac, you have Murray Corner, here we have Sandy Beach, Gagnon Beach. When do you stop?"

'Tourism is our bread and butter'

The developers say they are willing to work with residents to address their concerns.

"We're going to try to build this as environmentally responsible as possible," said François Richard, who is one of five associates behind the project.

Richard has been working as the general manager for Les Chalets de L'Aboiteau, inside Aboiteau Park.

"I think I've always been working responsibly so far inside the Aboiteau Park. I'm really curious to know what the concerns are, and hopefully we can all work together to make this happen."

Sandy Beach, a 350-site privately owned campground on the other side of Aboiteau wharf, is currently the only other campsite in Cap-Pelé.

"It's always at full capacity,'' said the mayor. "There's another project that wants to come here, we want to grow, so we're looking at all possibilities.

"There's a big demand around here. Tourism is our bread and butter," he said.

The developers hope to get approval on the environmental impact assessment by May or June.

In the meantime, residents plan to present a petition against the project at the next Cap-Pelé council meeting on April 10.