Posted on July 12, 2023
Storm surge destroyed boardwalks, leaving some sections twisted and upside down in the middle of the water
Visitors to Aboiteau Beach in southeastern New Brunswick will notice some changes this summer.
Two wooden boardwalks used by pedestrians to get to the beach in Cap-Acadie are not accessible this season after they were ripped apart by post-tropical storm Fiona in September.
One of the damaged walkways ran next to the access road to the parking lot, while another led visitors from cottages across a large marsh. Storm surge destroyed both, leaving some sections twisted and upside down in the middle of the water.
A temporary plan is in place for this summer. Visitors can access the beach using a pedestrian lane along the road in the park. A portion of the park’s entrance road has been turned into a one-way street with traffic lights to allow for the pedestrian zone.
The storm also damaged sand dunes, walkways, ramps to the beach and its restaurant.
Repair work to the accessibility ramp was a priority for the park before it opened in June.
“We pride ourselves as being accessible for people with disabilities, mobility issues, even just people with a big wagon full of beach stuff,” said Justin LeBlanc, the park’s manager and director of economic development and tourism for the area.
“We want it to be easy for them to get on the beach, so luckily we were able to get that fixed.”
Rebuilding the two longer boardwalks will take more time because they are next to a provincially significant wetland.
“It’s a very complex situation,” said LeBlanc, because the requirements have changed since the original foot bridges were built in 1997.
“Back then the regulations weren’t as strict as they are today.”
The community has found a climate-responsive solution for rebuilding the boardwalks.
“We want to rebuild to really adapt to climate change,” LeBlanc said. “We also want to minimize the impact of our work on the local ecosystem.”
To meet the current regulations, LeBlanc said they plan to replace the wooden structures with boardwalks that will be at least one metre higher than the wetlands.
“People that walk along the road would actually be walking a bit higher than the vehicle traffic,” he said. “It’s a significant increase.”
Julie Cormier is executive director Vision H2O, a watershed group working to maintain a healthy ecosystem and to conserve healthy water in Cap-Acadie.
She said replacing the boardwalks is necessary to protect the sand dunes along Aboiteau Beach.
“We don’t want people walking everywhere on the dune,” Cormier said. “It’s a critical area.”
The organization has been working to restore the dunes along Aboiteau Beach damaged by storms. Cormier said they use discarded Christmas trees, placed at the foot of the dunes, to help fight erosion by trapping and accumulating sand.
The group also plants marram grass and allows the root systems to redevelop and help prevent further erosion.
Cormier said there is more vegetation in the dunes this summer which will help protect them from erosion, but keeping people off the dunes is key to the restoration work.
“Don’t walk on the dunes”, she said. “We just want to give Mother Nature the most help it can take.”
LeBlanc said the estimated cost to replace the boardwalks is $700,000, and the municipality hopes to have funding in place this fall and begin work this winter.
50,000 people visit Aboiteau Beach every year from the first weekend in June to the Labour Day weekend in September.
LeBlanc said visitors have told park staff they miss the boardwalks, but “understand the complexity of the situation.”