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Fundy Trail Parkway turns 25 this weekend

The Fundy Trail Parkway opened to the public in 1998, but construction started in 1995. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
The Fundy Trail Parkway opened to the public in 1998, but construction started in 1995. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

An important tourist and transportation link in southern New Brunswick is turning 25 this weekend.

The Fundy Trail Parkway opened to the public in 1998.

Only a small section of the trail was completed at the time, but it now links St. Martins with Fundy National Park.

Andrew Dixon, chair of the Fundy Trail Development Authority board of directors, said the trail has been a "game changer" for tourism in the region.

"It's very unique in that it can stand shoulder to shoulder with the very best vistas and views and coastal areas that you would go to anywhere in North America, but it's new," said Dixon.

"People have to come to experience it for the first time, whether it's a New Brunswicker or somebody from much further away."

'Child of New Brunswick'

The trail was largely the brainchild of one man — Saint John entrepreneur Mitchell Franklin.

Franklin owned several businesses in the area, including movie theatres and hotels.

But Beverly Franklin, Mitchell's daughter, said the nature of the trail was always important to him.

"Mitchell was not born here, but he truly was a child of New Brunswick," said Franklin.

The Fundy Trail Parkway will be completed this year but the connecting links to Sussex and Fundy National Park will not be ready until 2019 and 2020.
The Fundy Trail Parkway will be completed this year but the connecting links to Sussex and Fundy National Park will not be ready until 2019 and 2020.

Andrew Dixon, chair of the Fundy Trail Development Authority board of directors, said the trail has been a 'game changer' for tourism in the region. (@hecktictravels)

"He loved the tall proud trees. He loved the clean, clean air. He loved the sturdy resolve of the people. And most of all, he absolutely fell madly in love with the iconic Bay of Fundy."

While Mitchell had always pitched the idea of a connection that would allow continuous driving along the coast, it wasn't until Frank McKenna was premier that his idea started to come to fruition.

"Even when I was in opposition, he used to take me for visits on the trail," said McKenna, who was premier from 1987-97.

"It just infected me with his enthusiasm and in turn I was lucky enough to become premier and was able to help bring the entire caucus and cabinet on side."

But the project would outlive the McKenna administration. The first section didn't open until after McKenna stepped down.

The province will take over operating the trail starting in December. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

The link between St. Martins and Fundy National Park was completed in 2021, seven premiers later, but Mitchell didn't live to see its completion. He died in 2006.

He did get to see the first major chunk of the road, to Big Salmon River, completed.

"When he was not well, the team came to him … and they assured him that the trail would be finished. So he was a very happy man," said Franklin.

Changes on horizon

The trail continues to change as it turns 25.

Starting in December, the province will take full control of operations of the trail.

Dixon said there will be some cosmetic changes, like promotional material and signs, but he expects the operation of the park to maintain the status quo.

Dixon said while there will be some cosmetic changes, like promotional material and signs, he expects the operation of the park to maintain the status quo. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

"We are extremely confident that this is the right move and that the province will do a great job in operating what I think is going to be a flagship park within their system," said Dixon.

'Satisfies my soul'

The park features dozens of hiking trails, lookouts and historic points of interest.

Dixon said one area that's special to him and his family is Davidson Lookout, where you can see the coast of Nova Scotia on a clear day.

The chip sealed connector road opened on Tuesday, completing the Fundy Trail Parkway after more than two decades of construction.
The chip sealed connector road opened on Tuesday, completing the Fundy Trail Parkway after more than two decades of construction.

The chip-sealed connector road opened in 2021, completing the Fundy Trail Parkway after more than two decades of construction. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

For Franklin, Long Beach, where she continues to work at the interpretive centre, is close to her heart.

"[People] come in and they tell me their stories, which fills my heart with glee," said Franklin.

"They'll share a story about the old days and they'll share a story about having met my father, or they'll share a story about having hiked up through here as children with their parents. I must admit that satisfies my soul like nothing you could imagine."