Bumpy debate, but council agrees to remove barricade at trestle

By Craig Westcott/April 21, 2022

The councils of Bay Roberts and Spaniards Bay appear to be a kickstart away from finally opening a shared route for ATVs to pass over the Shearstown Estuary and through roads in their towns.

Spaniard’s Bay council voted last Monday to remove a barricade to the entrance to the trail on its side of the boundary and Bay Roberts agreed to do the same the following night, but with a caveat: The barricade won’t actually come down in Bay Roberts until a new route is proposed that meets with the approval of council.

Bay Roberts chief administrative officer Nigel Black informed council of the Spaniard’s Bay decision and other developments.

“Back in November we had a small committee between the two towns and the two managers or CAOs to meet and discuss (it) and we made a recommendation at that time,” Black said. “Since then, we’ve received some feedback from the provincial Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture. We weren’t able to meet for quite a while, but we were able to meet just recently and discuss that feedback. And based on our discussions, we’re recommending that you remove the barricades at the trestle and make the Shearstown Estuary section of the railway a multi-purpose trail that will link the two towns and form part of the improved ATV route between the two towns.”

Black said the plan is to finalize the actual route for the next public council meeting.

“This is only one piece of the route, so we really do need to finalize the entire route,” he explained.

That proved to be an important point of contention for Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour, who said he had read the government official’s feedback.

“He does give some pretty strong arguments against opening the trestle and the railway,” Seymour said. “And he goes into great detail about alternate routes, including Route 70, especially with regard to recent changes in the provincial government’s legislation along the highways in municipalities and the use of off-road vehicles and that this should be considered before making any decisions. So, I guess we’re going to ignore these suggestions, I take it?”

Seymour admitted he has had issues with the trailway from the start, though not with the idea of the trailway itself, but with the proposed routes, “despite the slanderous accusations that I was against it because there’s nothing in it for me, to which I take great offence to, by the way. But that’s another issue that we dealt with.”

Seymour added he couldn’t support the motion as presented. “This leads to a route that I’m firmly against,” he said. “If we had a route that worked, I’d be all for this, one hundred percent… (But) it checks no boxes. The route has no economic value to the town, which is the big argument for this (the trailway). I’m not here to represent the views of Spaniard’s Bay – I could care less. Spaniard’s Bay is not dealing with the same issues that we are dealing with. There are no bikes going through school zones or recreational facilities in Spaniard’s Bay. So, my position hasn’t changed. Show me a route and I’ll support it.”

To that councillor Silas Badcock, who is a member of the committee working on the trailway, said a new route is being developed for presentation to council at its next meeting.

“I’m pleased to hear that,” said Seymour.

Councillor Perry Bowering said he too was against any route that includes the extension off Eric Dawe Drive.

Councillor Frank Deering agreed. “I’m all for the trestle to be open, but we’ve got to find an alternate route past the schools,” he said. 

Given that, Bowering asked if the vote on opening the trestle should be postponed until the new route is determined.

Councillor Dean Franey disagreed.

“I think we’ve postponed it enough,” he said. “I’m prepared to vote on the motion on the table.”

CAO Black cautioned the barricades won’t be removed until the route is ready, noting that the vote on the trestle can go forward without having the final route set.

“I’ve got to remind everyone again – this is on a trial basis, the whole thing,” said Mayor Walter Yetman. “And if it doesn’t work out and there are issues, we will deal with them. At the end of the day, we can scrap all this, or we can make improvements.”

“The other route is going to be a brand new one,” Badcock pointed out.

“I think it would be best to pass the motion as it is,” Black counselled.

Given that, Seymour said he could support the motion to remove the barricades, in principle. 

With that, Yetman called the vote and the motion passed unanimously.

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