Nfld. & Labrador

Fort Amherst revitalization at heart of group's campaign

A group is coming together to try and preserve an important piece of military history near St. John's harbour.
The former Second World War gun placements at Fort Amherst are currently fenced off for those visiting the area. (CBC)

A group is coming together to preserve an important piece of military history near St. John's harbour.

"I think it's a huge tourist attraction," said singer Mark Hiscock, who is chairing the Narrows Group, which formed during a meeting on Thursday night in Quidi Vidi Village. 

Mark Hiscock, chair of The Narrows Group, wants to see the Fort Amherst site opened up to tourists. (CBC)

"This is the gateway to not only St. John's or Newfoundland, it's the gateway to North America. When cruise ships come across the Atlantic, the first sight that they see when they come into St. John's are these gun bunkers on this side and the falling stages into the harbour on the other side."

The Narrows Group was formed when New Democratic MP Ryan Cleary got the Fort Amherst and Outer Battery Associations together under one roof.

The idea is the protection, preservation and enhancement of both shores of The Narrows: Fort Amherst on the south side of the harbour's entrance, and the historic Battery neighbourhood on the other.

Hiscock thinks the city and province have been missing out on an opportunity to show off a significant historic site to those visiting the area. 

The Fort Amherst area includes the remains of gun emplacements that were built during the Second World War to defend against German U-boat attacks.

Visitors perplexed at lack of proper site

Chuck Brennan, who was visiting St. John's this week from Ontario, said he would be interested in going to Fort Amherst, if it was properly restored.

"From the pictures and the advertising, we thought [the harbour area is] a beautiful spot, obviously," he said.

"But I was more interested in the fort down below, and it's not restored or anything. We didn't realize this was going on and that they wanted to restore it."

Chuck Brennan, who was visiting the area from Ontario, was surprised more isn't being done to present the Fort Amherst site. (CBC)

The Narrows Group, which elected a board on Thursday night, has started consultations with the City of St. John's and is working with the Grand Concourse Authority to see how the site can be restored and protected.

Hiscock said the group does not necessarily want to completely restore the site, but he thinks allowing greater access — as well as building some sort of museum or monument — would be appropriate.

"If this was anywhere else in Canada it would be built to the nines, they would have soldiers down there in period costumes and there would be lots of activity," he said.

"It's time for something to happen out here."

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