Environmental concerns dominate Saint John Rockwood Park development debate

Tell the City of Saint John you’re concerned about development in Rockwood Park by clicking here.

For more than 20 years, Joan Pearce has been at the front lines of the battle to save Rockwood Park from development.

Now, with another plan in place to potentially open a portion of the park at 1671 Sandy Point Rd. for development, Pearce, 84, is fighting again.

“When people see things that don’t seem to be right in the protection and the conservation of our natural world, I think that’s what keeps me going,” said Pearce, the spokesperson for the Friends of Rockwood Park, a group committed to advocating for the preservation of the natural environment of the park. 

Development dispute

With 55 trails, 10 lakes and diverse wildlife habitats, Rockwood Park in Saint John is one of the largest urban parks in Canada. The park is home to more than 300 species and boasts a fascinating and rich geology, with rock formations containing Precambrian minerals dating back more than two billion years.  

In February, Saint John council voted to designate the 13 acres of parkland referred to as 1671 Sandy Point Rd. property as surplus. It’s the third time that this land at the north end of the park has been considered for sale, despite significant public opposition to past attempts.

The city insists that the reasoning is based on the increasing need for housing. However, Pearce urges the municipality to look elsewhere for a solution and wants the city to include the community in that discussion. 

“You should have as much green space as possible,” said Pearce. “Nobody seems to be able to look into the future and see that even if they’re not going to be around anymore, they should, just for the good of the city, keep as much parkland as possible.” 

Pearce and the members of the Friends of Rockwood Park are not the only ones who feel this way. A growing number of residents and park users are writing letters to the city, and a network of organizations opposing the sale and development of Rockwood Park has formed in recent weeks. The organizations that are part of the network include environmental organizations like the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, park user groups and sustainability interest groups. Together, these organizations represent hundreds of members. 

Calls for action

With 65 per cent of the 13 acres forested, Pearce says the area plays a vital role in supporting wildlife and mitigating climate change effects. Increased traffic and pollution from potential residential developments could degrade water quality in Harrigan Lake, affecting fish, freshwater mussels, amphibians, loons and beavers.

The Friends of Rockwood Park is calling for the city to rescind the motion and engage in public consultations about any decisions impacting parkland. Pearce suggests that the city should consider alternatives that enhance the park’s value instead of selling off the land. Ideas include developing park facilities, reforesting cleared areas, or establishing a conservation agreement to protect the land permanently.

“We need a plan for this lot that is park-related and adds to the park,” Pearce said. “An interpretation center, public restrooms or other amenities could benefit the community and preserve the natural environment.”

You can help protect Rockwood Park from development. Click below to tell the City of Saint John to rescind the motion to designate the 1671 Sandy Point Rd. property as surplus.

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