GROS MORNE, N.L. – Nicknamed the "jewel of Newfoundland," Gros Morne National Park is known for its breathtaking views, particularly from Western Brook Pond, where a three-kilometer path leads to an inland fjord with steep cliffs that rise 600 meters from the water.  The walk and boat trip, which last year attracted 40,000 people, are known as the top attractions of the park.
However, some local residents object to a recent decision by Parks Canada to upgrade the course by replacing an iconic promenade with a gravel path as wide as a dual carriageway. Plants that used to flourish alongside the path have also been pulled away.
Kathy Lepold-Madigan, originally from West Chester, Pa., Moved to the nearby town of Woody Point with her husband Mike Madigan to be close to the park all year round.
She says she was devastated by what she saw this summer on the trail.
"I think the park has abandoned us," Madigan said. & When I say that, I mean that they abandon Canada, drop Newfoundlanders. It seems that the park has lost its gaze. "
Online responses have been smuggled in from former employees, guests and residents of the park – all disapproving of the changes.
Others say the upgrades seem to be aimed at increasing the number of visitors at the expense of the ecological integrity of the park
Carla Wheaton, manager of the visitor experience for Gros Morne, said that the popularity of the cruise and visitors' comments made the renovation a priority, and the upgrades were meant to create more space for the guests, she says.
Wheaton said that a series of open houses was held in May and June 2017 to share renovation plans with the public.
"I think we have not reached the people who now feel that they did not have enough information before the project got started, "she said.
There has also been confusion about the course, which is now almost four times the size of its original size.
Park s Canada said that the extension of the course was intended to increase accessibility, but proponents of a restriction were initially baffled about the gravel path and said it was less accessible than the promenade.
Emily Christy, spokeswoman for the Coalition of Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador, said Parks Canada has addressed the concerns of her group by saying that the path is being leveled off to improve accessibility.
There are also plans for a shuttle service to take guests to and from the boats. There are also plans to plant vegetation along the course.
"Ecological integrity remains our priority, while our mandate also provides opportunities for Canadians to go out and experience national parks," said Wheaton
] A series of open houses is planned for fall, inviting people to share thoughts about the work done so far.
Wheaton said sketches of the final plan for the course will be made available during those meetings.
But some critics, such as Anne Marceau, a former Park Canada employee, wonder why those sketches were not presented at the meetings in 2017, before the work began.
Marceau said that the recent communication person has harmed Park Canada's relationship with the public. 19659002] "The loss of trust … it is a bad result of all this," said Marceau.
Marceau said she was "heartbroken" by changes on the trail, but the flow of comments from people from all walks of life with hav e presented the passion that locals have for the treasures of their community.
"That is the only thing that has been interesting, to see how many people there are who say & # 39; We care about this place, we love this place, we & # 39; re concern. & # 39;"
– By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John & # 39; s, NL