MURRAY CORNER, N.B. – Many people from throughout the region turned out on Sunday at the East Botsford Recreation Center to protest against the privatization of Murray Beach Provincial Park.
“The number of visitors and campers to the park has grown annually . . . with 43,262 visitors in 2018. That’s up 3,788 from the previous year alone,” said Sharon Allen, facilitator for the afternoon rally.
She noted Murray Beach Provincial Park is a self-sustaining provincially-owned business, and in 2018 alone posted an approximate $40,000 surplus. The camping park employs 10 seasonal, full-time employees in addition to four summer students each year.
Memramcook/Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton addressed those gathered, as did representatives of CUPE Local 1190 Labours and Trade – the union representing park employees.
Many other people, both local and from outside areas, also took advantage of the open-mic venue.
“If this is about the bottom line, the bottom line is this facility is a revenue-generating park and what shakes out on the budget sheet (each year) is, it will actually be losing revenue (for the province) if this is handed off to privatization,” said Laura Reinsborough, of Sackville, a lifetime summer visitor to Murray Beach Provincial Park.
Local resident Noel Pauley said he is concerned whether the facility, once under private operation, will ultimately remain open in years to come.
“My concern is, once something goes private, it’s going to get squeezed until all the juice is gone, and then it will be no more. We need Murray Beach to fly the banner for this little corner of the province,” he said.
A resident in the Murray Corner area, Mary Ellen Nurse expressed concern for the environmental future of the park and of the coastal waters of the Northumberland Strait.
“What is the bigger issue here? Is it not the amount of money they might have to spend to clean up our waters? If you get a private person running it, they’re not going to spend the money that it takes to keep it clean. In fact, they’re going to add to the environmental catastrophe that is developing very quickly (in the Northumberland Strait). I think we should have some answers. Is our water and our environment safe and will those people that you put in charge follow every environmental aspect that they need to do to keep Murray Corner beautiful?” she asked.
Other individuals spoke of their concern for the park’s 10 jobs, which may be on the line in the event of privatization, as well as about a lack of the Higgs government’s apparent lack of interest in the promotion of tourism, both across the province and particularly in the Tantramar region.
Those attending were urged to sign a petition denouncing privatization of Murray Beach Provincial Park, which will be presented in the New Brunswick legislature before the end of the current session. A committee was subsequently formed to move forward on the issues presented during the rally.