Gravel pits near St. John River worrisome to resident

·3 min read
Gravel pits near St. John River worrisome to resident

Earlier this fall, Patty Hudson walked her dogs along one of her favourite stretches of the St. John River, just below Hartland, when she was appalled to see a gravel pit just metres away from the water.

A passionate environmentalist, Hudson said she couldn't believe that a gravel pit could be so close to the walking trail that follows the river.

"There's a big quarry here all of a sudden, and it never used to be — it was at best a very small older quarry, and never this far, never," Hudson said.

The area is about five kilometres south of the world's longest covered bridge, located in Hartland.

Hudson, who lives in Upper Kent about 30 minutes north of the site, said she used to walk in the area often but only walks along that stretch of the river a handful of times a year now.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

"This is really meditative place for me, I come down here to feel better, especially since life has pretty much ended its normalcy right now," she said.

"It's just a place of extreme beauty and history."

Hudson said that besides the look of gravel pits, she's bothered by the potential disruption of wildlife in the area, and the effects it could have on the river.

"We don't know how many nests we destroy when we just start digging, but for sure there are animals in those trees, they're hiding and they're running."

One of the gravel pits that Hudson is worried about is below the banks of Route 105.

"The berms along the riverbank that stabilize the river banks are being thrashed, being dug into willy nilly," she said.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

Hudson's concerns were sparked when she saw a truck in the pit recently, though she admits she didn't see anyone digging at the time.

One of the pits that Hudson is referring to is owned in part by the Cook family.

When reached by CBC News for a comment, a spokesperson for the family said the site isn't active but occasionally equipment is in there.

According to the family, they have all the required legal documents to operate there, and when taking gravel from the site, they take it from the back of the pit, which is closer to the banks of the 105, and not the St. John River.

The spokesperson said the site was built by Canadian Pacific Railway when the train track was being built along the river. The track bed is now the walking trail.

Other gravel pits

Hudson said it doesn't matter when the site was constructed, she thinks it's time to change where gravel pits are operated.

The particular gravel pit is not the only one along that stretch of the river. Several contractors operate different pits in the area that are still active.

"There are many active gravel pits, if that's the regulation, time to change those kinds of regulations," Hudson said.

"Obviously, we live in a society we have a need for gravel, but do they have to be everywhere?" Hudson asked. "It's hideous. Why do we accept this?"

According to a statement from the province, there are guidelines for sand and gravel pit owners and operators to minimize potential impacts to the environment.

The Department of Environment and Local Government does not issue approval to operate gravel pits.

If someone is looking to develop a new gravel pit within 30 metres of a watercourse or wetland, a permit is required. Applications are reviewed on a case by cases basis.