World-class Mistaken Point hampered by penny pinching, group says
UNESCO-recognized site could close interpretation centre peak season
Despite being designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Mistaken Point may have to operate during peak season without its interpretation centre.
The same goes for Cape Race, where the Myrick Wireless Interpretation Centre is run by the same group.
Both centres will have to survive this season on a shared $15,360 operational grant from the provincial government.
"We had to meet with our staff and tell them we could not guarantee them employment for this season," said Gertie Molloy, chairperson for Mistaken Point Cape Race Heritage Inc.
"If we don't get financial support, we won't be able to open beyond the end of July or the first week of August. We'll end up closing at the peak of tourist season."
Molloy said the group is fundraising and seeking corporate sponsors to stay alive, but the search has been tough and has not gotten great results.
Late opening, early closures
The amount of money allotted is the same as last season, when the two centres didn't open until July.
Despite the late opening, tours of the fossil site ran from May until October — meaning none of the visitors went inside the interpretation centre and gift shop for the first two months.
"We've struggled as a volunteer group for decades," Molloy said. "To get UNESCO World Heritage status, and now … we're limited to this? I mean, we can't ensure hours for our staff."
Molloy said the group is able to get funding for student employees, but there is a lack of young people to fill the jobs.
She estimates the group needs $50,000 in funding to keep the two centres open for a full season, but has already heard from government that the amount the group received is all it will get this year.
The provincial government responded by saying it provides $400,000 for nine paid positions at the Mistaken Point site, as well as four more student positions.
That funding is separate from what it provides the Mistaken Point Cape Race Heritage Society. The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources rents space in the building owned by the heritage society for the interpretation centre, and the society runs a concessions and gift shop.
According to the province, the heritage society keeps all the money it makes and none is required to go toward paying for the Mistaken Point site.
The society is able to apply for funding through student employment and wage subsidy programs, government said in a release on Friday.
With files from St. John's Morning Show