Nfld. & Labrador

Movable fences coming to help stop Robin Hood Bay garbage from blowing onto trail

More fencing to keep garbage inside the grounds of the Robin Hood Bay landfill is better than nothing, but the fences aren't a solution on their own, an advocacy group says.

Advocate says extra fencing 'a Band-Aid solution' for protecting Sugar Loaf Trail

Litter around the Sugar Loaf Trail has been an ongoing issue, says Sherwin Flight of Friends of Sugar Loaf Trail. (Submitted by Alice-Ferguson-O'Brien)

Additional portable fences at the Robin Hood Bay landfill are a start but won't solve the problem of garbage blowing from the dump onto the East Coast Trail, says a member of Friends of Sugar Loaf Trail.

St. John's city council awarded a $207,000 contract for more moveable fences around the dump at its regular meeting Monday evening. 

The fences are meant to block garbage from blowing out of the landfill into the woods and trails nearby.

Sherwin Flight, speaking on behalf of Friends of Sugar Loaf Trail, told The St. John's Morning Show on Tuesday that  anything that will help is welcome, but added the fences are ultimately a Band-Aid solution.

"If we're 20 years in and we're just adding a little bit of section to an existing fence that's not working, I don't really think we're doing enough," Flight said.

The group has been advocating for more effective measures to keep garbage, in particular plastic bags, from blowing onto the trail and into the trees alongside it. 

Volunteer efforts have collected significant amounts of garbage — 57 bags collected by high school students in just an hour in April, and more than a tonne in one day in June 2018, Flight said.

Students and other community members collected more than 50 bags of garbage in April during a Sugar Loaf Trail cleanup. (Submitted by Alice Ferguson-O'Brien)

"I think it's a good-faith effort on the part of the volunteers that take part in this stuff, but expecting volunteers to clean up after a large regional municipal landfill is not a realistic expectation," he said.

Fencing can be moved to counter wind directions

The fences are five metres tall and can be moved as needed depending on the direction of the wind, said Ian Froude, the city councillor who made the motion to award the bid for the additional fences to Provincial Fence Products.

The additional 146 metres of fencing will be in addition to the existing 362 metres, which are also movable and can be adjusted by city staff to catch the maximum amount of garbage, based on the wind direction.

A litter-collection crew of city employees also contributes to picking up garbage that blows out of the dump, Mayor Danny Breen told Monday's council meeting.

"It's important that we do our best to keep that litter on the site," Breen said.

But the efforts of Friends of Sugar Loaf Trail and other volunteer groups make it clear that the city's measures are not doing enough, Flight said.

Just in the past month, he said, there have been significant amounts of garbage found on and around the trail.

We can't be the only place with a landfill in a windy location.- Sherwin Flight

"In multiple places, the stream is fully blocked by what I'll call a dam of garbage and plastic tangled up in the trees to the point that the water doesn't flow," he said.

Flight said it's worth consulting with the public on ideas to manage the trash. He would also like the city to look at how other jurisdictions handle this issue to see if there are better solutions in place elsewhere.

"We can't be the only place with a landfill in a windy location."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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