Rose Blanche left hanging

Brodie Thomas
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Tourists who found themselves at the Rose Blanche Lighthouse last Tuesday were the lucky ones.

Lynn Sawford dishes up pea soup in her new tearoom. The owner of the Rose Sea House Bed and Breakfast in Rose Blanche said she felt the need to provide food services to hungry tourists. The town’s only restaurant closed this summer, and now the lighthouse closure has her concerned about the future of her business.

Although it officially closed on Aug. 17, the day funding for students ran out, volunteers have been at the lighthouse closing down the site.

When tourists show up, as they inevitably do, the volunteers have been taking admission, opening washrooms, and letting them into the gift shop.

Manager Madonna Lawrence and volunteer committee member Edith Osmond were getting crafts packed up and sent back to the people who had put them in the gift shop on consignment.

Mrs. Lawrence said under the old funding scheme, employees at the lighthouse would’ve spent the final week packing up. In late October, when they used to close, there weren’t too many tourists passing through. It’s a different story on sunny August afternoons.

“If it wasn’t for Edith, I don’t know how we would close the place down,” she said.

Mrs. Lawrence is frustrated by the provincial governments delay in announcing JCP projects for the southwest coast, and then denying the Lighthouse any. In past years they had received 10 or more positions.

Mrs. Lawrence said they would’ve been happy with fewer. Now the board is looking at ways to downsize staff. Although the lighthouse used to bring in enough admission to cover expenses such as phone bills, power bills, insurance and upkeep, there was only enough left over for one full-time staff member.

With the short season, the board is wondering if they’ll be able to open next year.

While praising the volunteers who do help out, Mrs. Lawrence said it’s not fair to rely on unpaid help to run the lighthouse.

“Something this size can’t be run on, ‘We may be there tomorrow,’” she said.

Rather than close all together, the site opened with the available student workers. The board also decided to raise admission rates this year from three to five dollars for adults, and from two to four dollars for children.

Mrs. Lawrence heard the minister responsible for JCP grants on CBC radio earlier in the week. Joan Burke told host Bernice Hillier that tourism sites shouldn’t rely on JCP grants.

Now Mrs. Lawrence just wants to meet with Minister Burke’s department to discuss possibilities.

“If they have suggestions on how we can run three places, we’re ready to listen,” said Mrs. Lawrence.

Burgeo-La Poile MHA Andrew Parsons has been raising the JCP issue since the grants were not announced as expected in June. He said there’s no cooperation between the department handing out the grants and the department of tourism.

“The government spends millions promoting our province on Toronto billboards, but are walking away from the very people who operate the attractions they promote,” he said.

“As far as I can see, there is no cooperation between Minister Burke and the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. One Minister is out promoting our tourist attractions, while the other is cutting the ground from under their feet.”

Businesses suffer

Lynn Sawford is frustrated that the province isn’t providing more help to the lighthouse.

She saw value in Rose Blanche and decided to invest in an old property a coupe years ago, turning it into a bed and breakfast. She has already had room cancellations from tourists who heard the lighthouse would be closing.

“(They cancelled) because the lighthouse was closed, and there’s no place to eat,” she said “I mean, four nights is significant to me. That’s two rooms.”

Her husband, Norman Gentner, has lost faith in the provincial government after being impressed by Danny William’s leadership.

“It seems like the government is in conflict and confused about its own purposes,” he said. “Because on one hand it’s trying to promote tourism with a wonderful set of advertisements, but on the other hand they’re cutting the feet out from under the people who are providing the services.”

He said the government seems to be without an agenda or a plan.

Mrs. Sawford turned part of her artist studio into a tea room where they serve simple, home cooked fare such as pea soup and fresh bread. After the closure of the town’s only restaurant, Mrs. Sawford felt she had to do something to meet the needs of hungry tourists.

“We’ve had a lot of people form the Netherlands here. Some from Switzerland. Some from Barcelona. They are appalled that there are not more eating places,” she said.

Organizations: CBC

Geographic location: Rose Blanche, Toronto, Netherlands Switzerland Barcelona

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