The Department of Environment says a walking trail built in violation of the Clean Environment Act on Health Minister Victor Boudreau's proposed mega campsite in Shediac will be inspected as soon as the weather permits.
The landowner, the Anglican Parish of Shediac, had started building the first section of the trail with an expired watercourse and wetland alteration permit back in 2015.
A stop work order was issued and the church applied for a new permit before resuming the project.
But now a second section of the trail, that sits in the middle of several waterways that drain into a wetland, has gone up without so much as a permit application — a mistake, according to the province.
"The Anglican Parish did not apply for a WAWA permit for the T2 segment as they were informed by our department that they would not require one," said Marc André Chiasson, communications officer for the Department of Environment. "Which was an error on the part of the department."
The admission came after repeated questions from Pointe-du-Chêne residents, who argue the trail should have never been built there in the first place. The new section of the trail connects Pointe-du-Chêne Road, just next to the estuary, to Parlee Beach Road.
"This parcel of land is a wetland," said Arthur Melanson, who lives near Pointe-du-Chêne. "The vegetation that's there is vegetation that grows into wetlands. And also there's standing water in there throughout the whole year."
Wetland "sponge" against beach contamination
Residents say that if the church had asked for a permit, an inspector from the Department of Environment would have surveyed the site and likely would have recommended the trail be built further inland, or kept in its current location, almost half way between the estuary and Main Street, carving away some of the space available for campsites.
Now, Melanson worries about destruction to the existing wetland.
"It basically serves as a sponge for holding water, and keeping water from going into the estuary, that eventually is going to go into the Bay of Shediac, onto Parlee Beach," said Melanson.
Boudreau, who is also the MLA for Shediac–Cap-Pelé, put his stake in the project, Camping Shediac, in a blind trust when he became a cabinet minister in 2014.
But before that, while he was leader of the opposition, he informed the Department of Environment of his intention to relocate the walking trail on the edge of the campground to connect it to Parlee Beach.
That information is in correspondence obtained by residents through a right to information request and shared with CBC.
'How many more mistakes are they going to be doing?'
When Melanson asked why no permit was required for the work, the province told him it was because the waterway shown on the map didn't exist anymore.
The department told him it had been diverted into the Shediac storm sewer system.
But when Melanson pointed out that information didn't seem right and that the stream was, in fact, still there, the department admitted the error.
"When they get pushed against the wall, they come out and they say 'Oh really yes, we made a mistake.' Well how many more mistakes are they going to be doing?" said Melanson.
"We're not being told the full story," he said.
Meanwhile the province says it will take a look at the trail as soon as possible this spring.
"If it is found that remedial actions are required as a result of this inspection, the Anglican Parish will be directed to carry out the remediation within an appropriate time frame and we will ensure that there are no negative impacts to the wetland," said Chiasson.
But given what's happened until now, that's little comfort to residents like Melanson.
"What does that mean?" said Melanson. "Just put a rubber stamp on it and let it go?"
The land administrator for the Anglican Parish, William Murray, did not return a request for comment.