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-kilometre trail leads to an inland fiord with sheer cliffs that rise 600 metres from the water.The hike and boat tour, which attracted 40,000 people last year, are well known as the park’s top attractions.However, some local residents are objecting to a recent decision by Parks Canada to upgrade the trail by replacing an iconic boardwalk with a gravel path that is as wide as a two-lane road. As well, plants that used to flourish beside of the trail 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 year-round.She says she was devastated by what she saw this summer on the trail.“I think the park has let us down,” said Madigan. “And when I say that, I mean they let Canada down, let Newfoundlanders down. It seems like the park has lost its view.”Online comments have poured in from former parks employees, guests and residents — all of them decrying the changes.Others say the upgrades appear aimed at boosting the number of visitors at the expense of the park’s ecological integrity.Carla Wheaton, visitor experience manager for Gros Morne, said the popularity of the boat tour and comments from visitors made the renovations a priority. The upgrades were intended to create more space for guests, she says.Wheaton said a series of open houses were held in May and June 2017 to share renovation plans with the public.“I guess we didn’t reach the people who are now feeling they didn’t have sufficient information prior to the project commencing,” she said.There’s also been confusion over the trail, which is now almost four times its original size.Parks Canada has said the trail expansion was meant to increase accessibility, but disability advocates were initially dismayed with the gravel path, saying it was less accessible than the boardwalk.Emily Christy, spokeswoman for the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador, said Parks Canada has addressed her group’s concerns, saying the path will be flattened to improve accessibility.There are also plans for a shuttle to take guests to and from the boats. As well, there are plans to plant vegetation along the trail.“Ecological integrity does remain our priority, at the same time our mandate also provides for opportunities for Canadians to get out and experience national parks,” said Wheaton.A series of open houses are scheduled for the fall, inviting people to share their thoughts about the work done so far.Wheaton said sketches of the final plan for the trail will be made available at those meetings.But some critics, like Anne Marceau, a former Parks Canada employee, wonder why those sketches weren’t presented at the meetings in 2017, before work began.Marceau said the recent communication gaffes have damaged Parks Canada’s relationship with the public.“The loss of trust … it’s a bad consequence of all this,” said Marceau.Marceau said she was “heartbroken” by changes to the trail, but the outpouring of comments from people of all walks of life have showcased the passion locals have for their community’s treasures.“That’s the one thing that’s been interesting about this, to see just how many people out there who are saying ‘We care about this place, we love this place, we’re concerned.’”— By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John’s, N.L.