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Enlargement of popular Port aux Basques beach parking lot worries some residents

Neil Osmond is among those worried about waterfowl that may be adversely affected by the enlargement of the Grand Bay West beach parking lot.
Neil Osmond is among those worried about waterfowl that may be adversely affected by the enlargement of the Grand Bay West beach parking lot. - John René Roy Photo

Now that more amenities have been added to the Grand Bay West beach area, the popular walking trail and soft sandy beach is attracting more locals and tourists.

Public restrooms have been built, and colourful Adirondack chairs and picnic tables are plentiful. There’s even a volleyball net for impromptu games, and a free wheelchair available for use on the beach for anyone who might need it.

But work to enlarge the small parking lot off Kyle Lane resulted in some social media backlash for the town once work began on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

During the public consultations on the future of Grand Bay West Beach held by Port aux Basques Town Council earlier this year, one of the topics identified as needing improvement was parking.

“Parking complaints were frequently brought up during all three consultations on Grand Bay West Beach,” town manager Leon MacIsaac told The Gulf News via email. “A number of area residents complained of visitors to the beach causing road congestion and blocking access to driveways. It was a result of those meetings and the complaints received that the extension of the parking lot be given priority.”

Neil Osmond is an avid outdoorsman and a member of Port aux Basques conservation group, Sou’Wes Newfoundland Delta Waterfowl.

“The problem there is the backfilling now is so close to the lagoon,” says Osmond. “It’s a spot for birds crossing the Gulf Strait on their migration pattern.”

Like many others who commented on a public Facebook page post, Osmond is worried that backfilling the lot might compromise the ecosystem and affect this annual cycle.

“It’s a pretty important area,” he said.

Osmond believes the parking area falls within a stewardship agreement signed by the town in 2003. He’s seen the stewardship maps and has read the boundary markers.

“The only activities permitted must have no effect on wildlife and waterfowl,” says Osmond.

MacIsaac says the parking lot area in question does not fall within the protected markers.

“The Municipal Stewardship Agreement boundary encompasses an area which includes all points within the boundaries of Kyle Avenue, Grand Bay West Road, Trans-Canada Highway, Provincial Park (Cheeseman’s) boundary and the coastline,” MacIsaac explains. “Within that zone there are a number of areas defined for protection such as Osmond’s Beach, Short Sand Beach, Big Barachois Beach, Botties Barachois Beach, Second Beach and the sand dunes area. The protected zones do not extend south past Second Beach.

“These sections are defined under the Stewardship Agreement to provide protection for wildlife and fauna. All other areas within that boundary have not been defined to date for protection other than the areas defined within the Land Use Zones designation of ‘Environmental Protection’ in the Town of Channel – Port Aux Basques Development Regulations. The area where blasted rock is being placed is defined as Open Space where that activity is a permitted use.”

Whether or not it is permitted, Osmond is among those who still believes the town could have easily located the parking extension elsewhere.

“There’s a lot of better alternatives,” says Osmond, pointing to a gated area outside the current parking lot and immediately beside the restrooms. “They could have put it anywhere on this road and I don’t think there would have been an issue.”

But MacIsaac disagrees.

“The area beyond the fence was not considered for extension as the existing parking area was already established outside the fenced area. If the extension to the parking area was in a defined protected zone the town would not have considered or proceeded with backfilling,” he noted.

Meanwhile others on the social media post have noted that the town is actively backfilling when homeowners along Kyle Lane have been prevented from doing so.

MacIsaac did not confirm whether or not homeowners have been ordered to backfill their properties, but did state, “If a residential property on Kyle Lane had been ordered not to backfill their lots it would be due to intrusion into a coastal/waterways reservation buffer, which is likely clearly defined on their property surveys. The Town cannot permit backfilling into areas that are not under ownership of the property owner or under the protection of a reservation buffer. If property owners have concerns as to council’s restrictions on backfilling, they can contact me, and I’ll plot their survey on aerial mapping to illustrate why council made that decision.”

Even though it is not mandated by law, Osmond would have liked to have seen some environmental consultation done prior to starting the work.

“One of the first things they taught us in school is about the wetlands, the ecosystem,” says Osmond. “There’s been lots of changes over the years. It’s a sin to destroy something so nice.”

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