Islanders now have a modern new highway and a greater appreciation of environment
© Guardian photo by Nigel Armstrong
Keith Kennedy and Cindy Richards work Friday to take down a teepee that has been a year-round home for Plan B protesters. The protest encampment has closed for good, now that construction of a re-routed Trans-Canada Highway is nearly complete.
The Plan B protest site in the Bonshaw hills once featured a beautiful view of beautiful trees and blue sky, but it now has become a perfect vantage point to look at traffic buzzing up and down a modern four-lane highway. So it is understandable the Plan B protest encampment was taken down late last week.
The encampment was a lightning rod in more ways than one. To some people it was a strong physical symbol that backed up all the talk about protecting the environment. It was manned by dedicated individuals who vowed to keep watch over the controversial Plan B construction work. And they did.
To other Islanders it was a silly little camp in the woods filled with tree huggers and people with nothing better to do. As with most black and white arguments, the truth lies somewhere in between.
Two things are now certain when it comes to the controversy. In spite of all the rallies, media stories, petitions, letters to the editor and protests, the highway project never skipped a beat and work on it plugged along. The final section of the road in New Haven, near the old Fairyland park, will be the last piece of the construction puzzle in the coming days. And what has been built so far is indeed a nice modern highway.
The other indisputable fact is that the protesters showed their determination and commitment and stayed until the end just as they vowed. And to the encampment’s supporters, it was a bitter end.
Dan Jeffery, one of the stalwart Plan B protesters, says the demonstration touched a lot of people. “We have to stop this government from doing stupid, wasteful things like this,” he told a Guardian reporter the day the camp closed. Another strong supporter, Catherine O’Brien, says they will continue to monitor the highway. “ . . . there are still some problems that are happening with runoff and siltation so we are trying to keep government accountable for that,” she said.
Ms. O’Brien also sees a silver lining in the fact a citizens watchdog group, Citizens Alliance, has been formed out of the protest group. “We are keeping an eye on government decisions and policies and we are going to be around for a long time. I think this group has a lot to offer. We really want to make sure that P.E.I. has a better future and these kinds of decisions won’t be made again,” she said.
At the height of public discontent last fall the Plan B protest had morphed into a catch-all for just about every complaint people had with government — economic, social and cultural ones. But without a doubt the main issue was the environmental debate over the provincial government’s plan to build a highway through the scenic hills and in the process slash down a number of trees.
In the end it was just a highway construction project, although with a price tag of about $20 million a very expensive one. But infrastructure progress is necessary if the province is to maintain and improve our highway system.
But both sides in the argument won if you accept the fact that the Trans-Canada Highway is now a safer place to drive on and Islanders in general have a greater regard and respect for the environment. The protesters called their encampment Camp Vision. That’s a fitting name, and hopefully vision will always be part of the planning when it comes to working towards progress and protecting P.E.I.’s environment.