GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Many local outdoor enthusiasts and businesses remain unhappy with Nalcor’s decision to bar off a large section of access road on the Northern Peninsula.
The roughly 60-kilometre stretch of road runs along the newly erected transmission line built by Nalcor to deliver hydroelectric power from Muskrat Falls in Labrador to the island of Newfoundland.
Late in August, Nalcor installed two gates, one in the north near Brian’s Pond and one to the south at Eagle Mountain River, in response to outfitters worried about the increased public access to the areas opened up by the new road.
Nalcor is legally bound to remove or restrict access on newly created roads if public access is deemed to impact business operations of outfitters.
After consultations with both local outfitting operations and disgruntled outdoor recreation enthusiasts, Nalcor decided to lock the gates for only part of the year.
Nalcor says the gate will be reopened when snow conditions allow in the spring — when the snow starts to melt and it is no longer buried in snow.
However, many outdoor enthusiasts, as well as other businesses, remain unhappy with the decision.
A Change.org petition started by NLATV earlier this summer continues to receive signatures, garnering over 1,600 as of Sept 4.
Cory Billard, a Port au Choix native whose social media posts prompted the petition, maintains that no gates should be erected at all.
“According to Nalcor it’s all crown land up there and the taxpayers paid for (the road) so (it) should (be) open all the time,” he wrote in a Facebook message to The Northern Pen.
Billard also expressed concern that Nalcor may not re-open the gates when the time comes as promised.
Tom Maynard, owner of the Torrent River Inn, a hotel in Hawke’s Bay, says access to the road increased business in the area over the summer.
He says travelers over the road showed up in the town and surrounding area purchasing fuel, groceries, accommodations and other services.
“It was a big boost for our business and it could be going forward,” he told The Northern Pen. “The economics of it doesn’t make sense, because I say we did more business than some of the outfitters are going to be doing, just having the access.”
Maynard did the drive himself in August and said it was an “amazing road.”
“What a beautiful ride, the scenery was unreal,” he said. “As breathtaking as anything Gros Morne has got to offer.”
He was also concerned barring the road would create a safety issue in the winter. Maynard estimates the gates are approximately 10 feet high and, therefore, believes it will be too high for snowmobilers to cross even after snowfall.
Instead, unable to cross the bridges where the gates are located, snowmobilers will be forced to cross the brook.
Therefore, Maynard feels if Nalcor is going to close access during the hunting season, they should still re-open it before winter.
“I can see it closing up before the hunting season only but open up things before the snow flies,” he said.
Maynard and Billard both believe there’s potential to increase tourism and business through all four seasons, as it can be used as a snowmobile trail throughout the winter.
“We’ve finally got a link that connects us to the rest of the island either by ATV, UTV or snowmobile,” Billard said.
He says the trail would provide a shorter route to the rest of the province in the winter.
“Sure there’s a snowmobile (trail) across the hills but it’ll take you 10-12 hours to get to Deer Lake and I’ve done it in five hours last year,” he said. “That’s a big difference, especially if you gets caught in bad weather up there.”
Maynard also maintains there’s an opportunity to increase tourism in the area. Since the trail already exists, all that would be left to do is to mark it.
“The potential for it for us up here is unreal,” he said. “It makes it a four-season place rather than a one-season or two-season.”
The Northern Pen contacted two of the outfitters in the area for comment but they either declined to be quoted or did not respond prior to deadline.
The section on the Northern Peninsula is the only part of the entire transmission line to be gated.
With files from The Western Star