Nfld. & Labrador

Too ugly to survive: Controversial Signal Hill structure in St. John's is now down

A controversial wooden fence was short-lived on Signal Hill in St. John's as government workers tore it down in the pouring rain on Thursday morning.

Work crew took down wooden fence at iconic hill in St. John's that drew jeers

A work crew was on Signal Hill early Thursday morning to tear down a fence blocking the view of St. John's. Parks Canada put it up earlier in the week, and it quickly became a source of widespread public outrage. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

A controversial wooden fence was short-lived on Signal Hill in St. John's as government workers tore it down in the pouring rain on Thursday morning.

While the fence was hard to look through, the issue was plain to see — it was ugly, critics said, and blocked a beautiful view of Canada's most easterly city.

The three-metre-high fence was built on Tuesday morning, sparking outrage first from comedian Rick Mercer, and later from local MP Nick Whalen.

Mercer, who had said the fence was "stunning in its ugliness," told CBC News he was delighted to hear Parks Canada had a change of heart. 

"I don't know who [liked] the fence," Mercer said. 

"People make mistakes. I built a cabin. You wouldn't believe the mistakes I made." 

Just 48 hours after it went up, the fence was torn down by a small crew of Parks Canada workers, starting just before 6 a.m. NT.

Parks Canada said the fence would help deal with traffic safety issues on Signal Hill, a favourite walking site with city residents and a popular draw for tourists. The hill provides stunning views of St. John's, its harbour and the Atlantic Ocean. 

A superintendent with the organization said drivers would sometimes slow down, or even come to a stop, to check out the view or catch a glimpse of the Signal Hill tattoo performing military reenactments in the nearby amphitheatre.

Ironically, drivers were stopping in the roundabout on Thursday morning to watch Parks Canada staff taking the fence down.

The construction happened quickly, without public consultation, and the reaction to it was swift and fierce, with widespread public condemnation of the fence. 

Whalen, MP for St. John's East, slammed the move and took the issue to the office of federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who is responsible for Canada's national parks. 

Hours later, McKenna's office said the fence would come down, citing "feedback" to Parks Canada. 

She said the wood will be reused for the new, temporary barrier. 

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