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How to tackle Chapel’s Cove beach

Mayor hoping shoreline can be restored from ‘warzone-like’ state

By Chris Lewis | Vol. 32 No. 49 (Feb. 20, 2020)

The community of Chapel’s Cove is still dealing with the effects of Snowmageddon 2020.

Indeed, the Chapel’s Cove beach may be stuck in a rough state while the community explores its options for rebuilding and fixing what was left behind in the wake of one of the province’s most significant storms in recent history.

“Snowaggedon got us, and it got us good,” said Habour Main-Chapels Cove-Lakeview Mayor Mike Doyle.

Although he noted that public workers were on the roads early and managed to keep the roadways in good condition, it was still a struggle to tackle all the snow effectively.

“They were battling against all odds. There were challenges, because this certainly was not the easiest thing to deal with,” Doyle said. “There wasn’t always a good place to put the snow, and sometimes there was so much of it that you hardly had the time to worry about where it was going to go, because even more was still piling up on the ground.”

A direct northbound wind hit Harbour Main-Chapels Cove-Lakeview on January 17, with the strongest surges coming in at high tide. It resulted in the destruction of Chapels Cove beach. Doyle described it as a major hit to the community, especially considering the role that council hopes the beach will play in the community’s future.

The beach serves as the location every year for the community’s mental health Polar Dip event. During ‘Town Days’ events, the beach is the host location for family barbeques, and Doyle said council has recently spoken about the possibility of turning the beach into a source of revenue by using it as an RV park type area. The fire pits and picnic tables were already present, so the RVs were the only thing stopping it from becoming a proper RV park, he noted.

“That whole dream washed away with a single storm,” Doyle said.

Now, council is at a point where it will need to work with both the provincial and federal governments in finding a solution.

There is a road that passes along the beach, connecting a few houses with the rest of the community. That road, like the beach itself, was rendered unusable by the storm. The town has managed to force a road back into the area, in the event that first responders need to access those houses, but Doyle said the area is still looking like a warzone well into February, some weeks after Snowmageddon initially hit the province.

Still, Doyle tried to look at some of the positive things, such as the fact the bridge in the area was saved thanks solely to a small breakwater that was constructed a number of years ago.

Given that the storm wiped out a nearby side bank, Doyle suspects that were the breakwater not in place, the bridge would have succumbed to the havoc of the storm as well.

“It wiped out the entire side bank that’s there, which is the road into the slipway in Chapel’s Cove. That road is no longer there, so you cannot access the slipway. It’s completely washed out,” Doyle said. “On the other side of the bay, the storm washed out the whole road and even lifted whole culverts out of the ground and placed them literally on people’s front lawns.”

The results of the storm also revealed to council that their control over the shoreline was much more limited than it was a few years ago when there were still some remnants of an old concrete wharf in place. Although it did not serve much of its original purpose, Doyle said the wharf also served as something of a breakwater for the shoreline. Now, those remnants have washed out, and exposed the entire shore to the elements.

The first step in getting the beach repaired involves enlisting the help of both the provincial and federal governments. From there, Doyle said, council will have to look into how it can ensure such damage does not happen again in the future.

“Newfoundland is known for its nor’easters, and that beach is one that is at risk from storms like that, the mayor allowed. “It means a lot to the community, and we need to look into how we can protect it … Can we extend the old breakwater and bring it out more? Do we re-instate that old wharf and try to guard the beach again, even if it doesn’t act as a traditional wharf? Those are the things we need to look into, because once the waters hit the shore, it’s too late.”

Doyle noted the town’s engineer has been down to assess the full extent of the damages, and how they can properly move forward with restoring what was a significant part of the community.

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