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Rally to support Murray Beach Provincial Park set for this Saturday

Murray Beach Provincial Park is a popular site for locals and tourists alike and attracted more than 43,000 visitors in 2018, up almost 4,000 from the previous year.
Murray Beach Provincial Park is a popular site for locals and tourists alike and attracted more than 43,000 visitors in 2018, up almost 4,000 from the previous year. - Katie Tower

Murray Beach Action committee established to fight privatization of park

MURRAY CORNER, N.B. - Support for blocking the privatization of Murray Beach Provincial Park is ramping up, with an information session, barbecue and rally planned for this Saturday afternoon from 1-3 p.m. at a location adjacent the park facility.

The New Brunswick government announced early this year that it plans to download operation of Murray Beach to the private sector in 2020. Murray Beach Action, a local committee formed earlier this year to protest the privatization, is sponsoring the event to highlight the situation and to send a clear message to the province that supporters of the park will not stand by and watch while the popular facility is handed off to private operation.

Located on Route 955 at Murray Corner, the highly popular full-service facility, which comprises 111 camping sites and eight cabins, has been in operation since the early 1960s and is one of nine provincial parks across New Brunswick. Both local residents as well as a legion of annual campers to the park are both incensed and baffled by the government’s decision, given that the facility is financially self-sustaining.

Murray Beach Action spokesperson Stephen Robb said last week that the park is an anchor in the community, drawing many tourists and visitors to the region and providing 10 seasonal, full-time and four summer student jobs each year. He noted that some 43,262 people had visited Murray Beach in 2018, up almost 4,000 from the previous year and adding that government reports show that in 2018 the park ended the year with a $40,000 surplus. 

Robb noted that the rally will be held near the entrance to Murray Beach Park entrance, adding that the committee has been denied permission from the NB Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture to hold the event on park property.

A number of prominent political persons, among others, have been sent invitations to the rally, including, among others, Premier Blaine Higgs, NB Tourism Minister Robert Gauvin, Memramcook/Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton, and Jacques LeBlanc, MLA for Shediac-Beaubassin-Cap-Pelé.

However, only two replies have been received, with Mitton and LeBlanc slated to take part in Saturday’s rally. Robb noted that, in late June a reply had been received from Minister Gauvin in response to a signed petition opposing the privatization of Murray Beach Provincial Park which had been presented by Mitton in the provincial legislature on June 11.

“(In the letter) Mr. Gauvin basically said that the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture will not be operating Murray Beach Park in 2020-21 and that this fall it will be issuing requests for proposals from third-party operators to operate the park next year; that’s it,” Robb said.

He noted that widespread support for the initiative is heating up with calls for more drastic action to be taken in response to the announcement of the upcoming privatization.

Stephanie Bilodeau, communications director with the NB Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture issued this statement on Monday via email:

“Regarding Murray Beach Provincial Park, a Request for Proposal will be initiated in the fall to identify an appropriate operator for the 2020 season. It is important to remember that the park will not be privatized, but rather the department will contract out its operation through a concession agreement. Murray Beach will continue to have Provincial Park status and must comply with policies and guidelines outlined through the Parks Act. The future operator will be monitored through the agreement to ensure that they abide by the condition of the agreement.”

Leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Association, Kevin Vickers issued the following statement, also on Monday.

“The Tourism sector is an important growth sector and job creator for the New Brunswick economy. Every dollar we invest in tourism creates triple that for the overall provincial economy. The large-scale cuts to Tourism in southeastern New Brunswick, including the privatization of Murray Beach and the closing of the Visitor Information Centre in Aulac are short-sighted decisions by the Higgs government and cement the notion that this Premier has no vision to grow the economy of our province. New Brunswick is projected to be second-last among provinces in economic growth this year, and there are no signs that Premier Higgs has a plan to turn things around.”

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