You might have forgotten the scrap over snowmobile right-of-ways that left four Charlottetown men facing charges last month, but the residents of the community haven’t.
The men had taken their rigs into Terra Nova park, by means of a peaceful protest, and ended up with charges of damaging and destroying flora in a park and operating an over-snow vehicle in a park without a permit.
Residents of the town, which sits within park boundaries, say law enforcement isn’t going to stop them this time — they’re going to make sure the issue of land rights keeps coming up until they get some kind of resolution.
“Charlottetown is not going to just sit down and let things go by the wayside as it has in the past.” —Larry Spracklin
“We got several meetings planned now, and one for [Tuesday] night,” says Larry Spracklin, Chair of the Charlottetown Heritage Rights Committee. “Because from here things have been pretty quiet. Those boys have been charged, they have a court day may 31, which is still a ways down the road. Two months will disappear pretty quick and so we’re planning on doing something again soon. Possibly as early as Thursday, but there’s other possibilities too.”
That might have an ominous ring to it, but Spracklin is earnest.
“All they had to do was come and talk to the people in Charlottetown,” he says. “We’re not vigilantes, we’re not criminals by no means. We try to uphold the law, and we’ve tried to protect the park, in different ways. We feel that people are listening, but they’re not really understanding what we’re trying to do. It’s a small corridor.”
History of the argument
Spracklin says that this is by no means a new issue — that residents of the communities around the park have been trying to talk ski-doos for the last 38 years.
“There was a trail there back long before the park came, says Spracklin, and we want access to it… we always used it for trout fishing, berry picking, and things like that. And we feel that it was time that we make a stand and try to get somebody to listen to us.”
Getting someone to listen hasn’t been easy. Residents decided to protest in February of 2010 — but that didn’t get them any closer to a resolution.
“We didn’t hear another sound from them.” —Larry Spracklin
“Nobody came to approach us from the minster,” says Spracklin. “Only to say, Parks Canada came and we had a meeting over to the fire hall. And the superintendent said he wanted to enter into a dialogue with us. And we agreed to enter into a dialogue… And we didn’t hear another sound from them until they came back and said no you can’t have this, you can’t have that, you can’t have this — because it’s not in the park act.”
Residents were told that they couldn’t use Gros Morne, which allows snowmobiling, as an example, because it was created under a later agreement.
“But,” says Spracklin, “There’s two different regulations for two different national parks in the same province. It’s a bit hard to swallow.”
Spracklin says people in Charlottetown are fed up, and they’re not going to drop the issue, even if it means taking their protests into the summer.
“Until we get some action — get somebody to come and sit down and talk with us, and to honestly put a good effort in it to resolve the issue, Charlottetown is not going to just sit down and let things go by the wayside as it has in the past.”
TheIndependent.ca is expecting an official response later today from Parks Canada. Updates to follow.