City mayors and councillors have hailed the development in their cities as providing new tax revenue but city dwellers call it sprawling development and they question whether the development of the little green space found in their neighbourhoods makes any economic sense. They decry the lack of transparency and public participation in decisions affecting precious nature in their cities. They argue that in many cases, like the UNB Woodlot, the land in its natural form is essential in the fight against extreme weather events like flooding.
The City of Fredericton promotes itself as “what a city should be.” However, many people across the city say the city as well as the provincial government and the University of New Brunswick should be protecting the wild woods and wetlands of the UNB Woodlot found across the Regent Mall. Biologists say that we need to halt habitat loss to protect species from extinction. The UNB Woodlot is home to many critters and plants of conservation concern like the Great Blue Heron, songbirds, frogs and forest orchids. Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside angered many Fredericton residents in late 2010 when he remarked that wetland protection is hindering development in the city.
The city of Fredericton’s smaller park lands are also under threat. Residents near Coburn Park and Colonial Heights Park opposed rezoning parkland in their neighbourhoods in 2010 with the reason that natural watercourses and the at-risk butternut tree found in their park must be protected. Residents circulated a petition and wrote letters to the city of Fredericton. The Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Nature Trust New Brunswick, Nature NB and the Fredericton Nature Club all went on record against the sale, development or disposal of the small undeveloped natural parks owned by the City. On May 31, 2010, the city of Fredericton passed a one year moratorium on selling parkland. Residents welcomed the decision but seek a long term guarantee that their parks will be protected for future generations. While Coburn Park and Colonial Heights Park may be protected, another 39 parcels of land are being visited by the city as areas to either save or sell.
The winding forest trails of Crawley Farm north of Wheeler Boulevard in Moncton are home to bald eagles and Great Blue Herons. Recently, the area was rezoned for development. Moncton residents are alarmed by the news that their beloved forest trails, used by walkers, hikers, cross-country skiers, snow-shoers, naturalists, bird watchers and mushroom harvesters will be destroyed.
Last year, Saint John residents were dismayed to learn of plans to place a housing development inside the borders of Rockwood Park, one of the largest parks in Canada. In a pleasant surprise for the Friends of the Rockwood Park, a group that organized petitions, media releases and action alerts, Saint John City Council voted down the proposal to rezone the parkland in late January 2011.
The message of a celebrating Friends of Rockwood Park: people who organize and get involved to protect the public interest and the natural environment can win.