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.
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.
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.
"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."