Rough roads to Mistaken Point enough for DFO

The federal government says the rocky road leading to the Cape Race lighthouse and Mistaken Point is in good enough condition, and there are no plans for any additional work.
A washed-out section of the dirt road that leads to Mistaken Point. (CBC)

The federal government says the rocky road leading to the Cape Race lighthouse and Mistaken Point is in good enough condition, and there are no plans for any additional work.

According to a spokesperson with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ottawa has spent as much as it plans to on fixing up the roads.

Mistaken Point, near Portugal Cove South, was named for the navigational hazard it poses at the oft-foggy southeastern tip of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula.

The site is best known as home to some of the world's most significant fossils, with evidence of Earth's oldest creatures that lived 575 million to 542 million years ago when all life was restricted to the sea.

DFO said it spent roughly $600,000 in 2012 on repairs to the road, including replacing six old bridges with steel panel bridges.

"The road currently meets the needs of the department, and DFO has no plans to upgrade it. DFO personnel are able access the Cape Race lighthouse site by a 4-wheel-drive vehicle or helicopter," said the department in a release sent Monday.

The federal government said it repairs the road only for the purpose of maintaining the lighthouse as an aid to navigation.

The provincial department of Transportation and Works issued a tender for road work on Friday, but the section from the Cape Race lighthouse and Mistaken Point would not be covered.

The tender is open until June 12.

Forgotten Point

Each year, thousands of tourists flock to the area to marvel at the mere existence of fossils that old. The site usually opens in early to mid-May, but it remains closed this year because the gravel road  nerve-racking at the best of times, according to locals — has become impassable.

Some people who live near Mistaken Point, one of the most important paleontological finds in the world, are wondering whether it should be renamed Forgotten Point.

Valerie Sullivan, shown at the Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre in Portugal Cove South, is a member of a local committee trying to land world heritage site designation for Mistaken Point. (CBC)
Valerie Sullivan, a member of a local committee that's spearheading an application for world heritage status, said more than 70 visitors from as far as Australia have already been turned away this year.

"I don't know if it would actually jeopardize the application, but if you're asking the world to come visit your site, you need a safe and reliable way to get there, right?" Sullivan said.

Mistaken Point is a provincial ecological reserve, but the dirt road also leads to the Cape Race lighthouse, and is the responsibility of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

There are signs that warn of the rough road ahead, but no sign of any effort to improve it.

Sullivan said it's time for the two levels of government to come to some kind of an agreement to regularly maintain the road.

"We have people from all over the world who want to come here, and they're trying to plan their schedules around their visit to our province, and we have to tell them they possibly won't be able to view (the site)," she said.

"That's not good. Especially for tourism."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.