The recent announcement of a substantial financial grant by the provincial government to the group Preservation of the Restigouche River and its Tributaries (PRR&T) was a most welcome one. In the year and a half that that group has been in existence, it has established itself as the foremost spokesgroup for the work implied in its name and which is mandated in its constitution.
The Restigouche River is a river in crisis. It is a victim of its own beauty and of the exploding awareness of that beauty on the part of far too many people. Like many of our more impressive parks and other "natural" wonders, the Restigouche is in some danger of being "loved to death". People are flocking to the river in ever increasing numbers each summer - to canoe, to fish, to picnic and to party. Most have no ill intentions: on the contrary, they are drawn to it because of its scenic wonders and its peace.
Unfortunately, in coming to it in such large numbers, they alter the experience they seek and, in fact, t he very nature of the river itself.
I have not run the river in several years. for various reasons. I have spoken to several groups who have though and they all make the same two points: t he river is beautiful, and it is more and more crowded. It is in the interest of trying to protect the qualities of the river while addressing the needs and the desires of those who want to experience them that PRR&T first came into existence. It will now have some of the wherewithal needed to do more than act simply as an advocate for protection. I know that president Alvin Craswell and his committee are already hard at work establishing how they will spend the money they have been granted in a way that will most effectively address these concerns. I also know that efforts to educate people into proper ways to treat the river and its environs rank high on the list of priorities for the committee.
Specifically, these are some of the issues they are going to have to address.
(1) Far too many people are trying to use stretches of the river, particularly on holiday weekends. Whether we like it or not, it seems that some sort of quota will have to be established. We see this now on golf courses, in provincial and federal parks, and in the fishing pools on the river itself. It seems merely a matter of time before the concept will have to be extended to canoe users and others.
(2) Motorized boats are going to have to be curtailed. I am radical enough to argue that only professional guides and wardens should have motors; all others should have to make their way up or down the river under their own power. In particular, I think that jet boats, seadoos and other such abominations should be banned immediately, at lest on all waters above Tide Head. I recognize that this will limit access to the river to those who are physically fit (although it does not take a great deal of fitness to drift down, especially in a summer of high water, such as this one has been to date), but I would argue that only those who can do so climb mountains, hike wilderness trails, cross country ski or tour on mountain bikes. Maybe the same should apply here.
(3) The practice of limiting camping to designated grounds is going to have to be expanded and encouraged. Right now, it is working reasonably well, but there is, by all reports, still too much damage, too much garbage and too much disturbance to the ecology of the river by unrestricted, or unpoliced, use.
There are other issues which need serious consideration, certainly enough to keep PRR&T busy for some time to come. For now, I am encouraged by the success of the group in getting the funding to pursue its goals. I wish Mr. Craswell and his committee great success; the river itself will thank them for it. So will our children.