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Nature Conservancy of Canada expands protected spaces at Musquash Estuary

Nature Conservancy of Canada announced the addition of more than 100 hectares to its protected land near Musquash Estuary, while assisting a community group in repairing a lighthouse on a trail system west of Saint John, N.B. Tim Roszell/Global News

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has announced the addition of three new protected sites in New Brunswick, along the Bay of Fundy near Musquash Estuary.

One of the three sites west of Saint John involves 37 hectares (92 acres) at Musquash Head.

NCC partnered with non-profit community group Explore Lorneville Inc. to raise money for repairs and upgrades to a 70-year-old, fully-functional lighthouse. As part of the transaction, the community group will keep some of the land around the lighthouse with the remainder going to the NCC.

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“The estuary itself is one of the largest healthy and intact estuaries that still exists on the Bay of Fundy,” said NCC New Brunswick Program Director Paula Noel, noting the organization’s 20th anniversary of working to protect land in Musquash. “Throughout that time, and since then, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has been working to protect the forests and the beaches and the wetlands surrounding the estuary to create this larger, intact protected area that’s large enough for wide-ranging mammals like moose and bear.

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“You commonly see dolphins and seals, and there’s lots of fish just under the surface,” Noel continued. “And just spectacular wilderness coastline here.”

The two other pieces of newly acquired land are west of the estuary.

NCC said it has purchased 31 hectares (76 acres) of coastal forest and wetlands off Highway 790 in Chance Harbour, and received a partial land donation of 43 hectares (106 acres) off South Musquash Road.

Explore Lorneville spokesperson Leah Alexander said her organization wanted to restore the lighthouse, donate land and make improvements to the nearby trail system. They were able to accomplish all of those things through fundraising and community support, she said.

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Tuesday marked the official opening of the Lorneville Link trail, connecting NCC’s Black Beach and Five Fathom Hole trails. Alexander said coastal wilderness trails now connect from the start of Split Rock trail in Lorneville, near the lighthouse to the community of Prince of Wales. The connected trail now stretches approximately 20 kilometres one-way.

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“The lighthouse is the focal point of the hiking trail,” Alexander said. “So that’s kind of how it came to be because without the lighthouse here … it’s kind of the end-goal, to get to the lighthouse. We couldn’t really imagine these trails without the lighthouse being here.”

“We’re really proud of the work, but more so, we’re really proud of the community,” said Explore Lorneville’s Adam Wilkins. “It really stepped up in terms of volunteering time and effort to fundraise. There were over 300 individual donors that donated to the larger campaign.”

NCC said it got support from the Government of Canada, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the City of Saint John.

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