© Guardian file photo
Duncan Crawford, left, president of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation and local MLA Buck Watts stand at the parking lot at the beach in Blooming Point in this file photo.
Blooming Point is one of P.E.I.’s most popular beaches, and also one of the Island’s most important natural areas, hosting sand dunes, ponds and coastal forests that provide habitats for hundreds of native plants and animals.
Over the years, growing use by the public has created problems with both conservation and public safety. Vehicles parked on the roadside damage sensitive vegetation, wildlife habitat and sand dunes, and create obstacles for emergency vehicles.
“While most people are using the new lot, some are still parking roadside and in the dunes themselves,” said Kate MacQuarrie, director of forests, fish and wildlife for the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. “This creates problems for emergency access and damages the natural area.”
Within the next few weeks, the province will begin narrowing the road between the parking lot, which it constructed in 2010, and the dunes.
The narrower lane will prevent parking but still allow access for emergency vehicles.
Near the end of the road, a turnaround will be created to accommodate fire, ambulance and police vehicles. The turnaround can also be used by beach-goers and visitors to drop off passengers, but parking will not be allowed here. Violators may find their vehicles towed at the owner’s expense.
On-site signage will make it clear what is and is not allowed.
Both the Island Nature Trust and the East River fire department support the changes.
“The goal here is to balance public access and safety with conservation,” said MacQuarrie, who noted, if the problem persists, the province may close the road for all traffic other than emergency vehicles.
MacQuarrie said there are several options for resolving the ongoing issues at Blooming Point, but narrowing the road was selected as having the most benefits for people and the natural area. If problems persist, other options — including closing the road — may be considered.
The narrowing of the lane is the latest step to prevent damage to the ecosytem. In 2010, the province created the parking lot in a less-sensitive old field area, and no-parking zones were established for the roadside and adjacent habitats.
Agriculture and Forestry officials say these efforts have not addressed the ongoing issues at this site.