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Some P.E.I. National Park landmarks still aren’t open to the public after Fiona’s wrath

Parks Canada crews are still working to repair the damage left behind in P.E.I National Park following post-tropical storm Fiona in September — and they’re asking visitors to keep away from areas that are still closed.

The storm’s footprint in the park is dramatic. Entire stands of trees were toppled, roads destroyed, trails made impassable and chunks of coastlines erased.

The park, which runs for about 60 kilometres along the province’s North Shore, suffered its worst weather-related damage in nearly a century.

As the 2023 summer tourist season begins — the first since the storm hit — some of its most beloved landmarks still aren’t open to the public.

A gate blocks off access to Brackley Beach
Brackley Beach, one of the most popular beaches on the Island, is still closed. (Laura Meader/CBC)

“It’s great to see people out and about and enjoying P.E.I. National Park, but I will share that it’s very important for visitors to stay and stick to designated beach access points,” said Jessica Foster with Parks Canada.

“It’s really, really important that visitors stick to those designated beach access points and avoid cutting their own paths on the dunes or … climbing over a closure. Those are in place for visitor safety.”

Extensive repair work

Stanhope, Ross Lane and Shaws beaches are all open to visitors.

Brackley, Cavendish and Greenwich beaches sustained significant damage during the storm and remain closed.

The Robinson’s Island causeway was essentially destroyed and won’t reopen to motorized vehicles, making it accessible only to hikers and cyclists — a change Foster calls an extension of the Robinson’s Island trail system.

A beach and sand dunes and a caution sign
P.E.I.’s coastline was hit hard by the late-September storm, with sand dunes almost completely washed away in some areas. (Laura Meader/CBC)

“All of those locations are extremely popular, so work is underway right now to have those locations open for the peak operational season at the end of June,” Foster said.

The work is extensive. Crews are restoring access points to the beaches, either repairing existing stair or boardwalk structures or rebuilding them entirely. They need visitors to stay away to get that work done.

“We understand that these places are very special for Islanders and for visitors and for Canadians,” Foster said.

“So we understand the interest and the excitement for visitors to get out and spend time in the national park and to see how it was impacted by Fiona … And our wardens are seeing visitors trying to access areas where we have closed them.”

‘They did their job’

At Dalvay Corner, the sand dunes were wiped out almost entirely. There, crews are putting in granite armour stones which will be covered in sand when the work is done.

“The dunes were completely wiped away but they did their job, they protected the coastline from the storm surge and the force of the hurricane,” Foster said.

P.E.I. National Park will look almost unrecognizable to those familiar with the area, but Foster said the landscape is already recovering.

Diggers on a beach with piles of rocks visible
Dalvay Corner was one of the hardest-hit spots in the park. Crews are working to shore up the area with rocks that will be covered with sand. (Laura Meader/CBC)

“Coming out here following the hurricane, it was really sad to see some of these special places that mean so much to me, and I know to Islanders and Canadians,” she said.

“But it’s pretty spectacular to see the way the [dunes] are already continuing to grow and to build and continue to form and shape. And so it’s been pretty amazing over the course of the fall and the winter to watch Mother Nature do her work.”

The sites that remain closed will reopen once they’ve been inspected and deemed safe for visitors. Foster said Parks Canada staff are expecting a busy summer. 

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