'Eyesore' Fort Amherst property actually historical site owned by DFO
The trash-filled plot of land in Fort Amherst that prompted local complaints is actually a historically significant site that belongs to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Earlier this week, CBC News spoke to Reg Smith, a longtime resident of Fort Amherst, who has been trying to get the fenced-in area at the opening of St. John's harbour cleaned up for the past decade.
He said that the garbage and weed-filled property is an eyesore for tourists.
Smith has been trying to figure out who owns the land for years, contacting municipal, provincial, and federal officials to no avail.
But the media coverage prompted the DFO to review their records, through which they realized the site belonged to their department's Small Craft Harbours group.
"We'd like to thank Mr. Smith for bringing that forward because it certainly resulted in our doing a little bit of research over here," said Bill Goulding, regional director of the Small Craft Harbours group.
The garbage has been cleaned up and we'll make extra effort now to keep an eye on that.Bill Goulding, DFO
"We certainly apologize for any inconvenience that's been caused to Mr. Smith and other residents of Fort Amherst if the site has been looking a little unkept over the past couple of years."
However, the littered land is more than just an empty field — it's the remains of a battlement called South Castle, which dates back to 1698. The remains of South Castle were excavated in 1993, and the area was fenced off to respect its historical significance.
The remains of history
The battlement would have been used in the early defences of St. John's. After a rich history, it was abandoned in 1835 and came under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the 1980s with the development of what is now the Prosser's Rock Small Boat Basin.
Goulding said the intention was initially for another federal department to eventually take over the site, but that transfer never happened.
"No real reason for that, it's just been under DFO's care. It's been fenced and largely left undisturbed in the last 25 years or so."
After learning that of their ownership, the DFO quickly cleaned up the site and is seeking advice on possible next steps.
Goulding says that if another, better-suited department has an interest in acquiring the site, the DFO is open to discussion.In the meantime, the department says they will make sure the site remains stays tidy.
"The garbage has been cleaned up and we'll make extra effort now to keep an eye on that," said Goulding.