Nfld. & Labrador

The people vs. Witless Bay: Excavator on beach has residents fuming

Things have boiled over in Witless Bay between residents and the town's council on what is believed to be construction of a retaining wall to prevent erosion at Ragged Beach.

East Coast Trail Association says it wasn't informed of planned work by the town

Jack Foley, who has lived in Witless Bay for nearly 50 years, said the construction happening at Ragged Beach is unnecessary. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Things have boiled over in Witless Bay between residents and the town's council on what is allegedly a project to build a retaining wall to protect land erosion at Ragged Beach.

Residents believe the construction marks the beginning of what they say will turn into a road that will lead across the beach and into private property.

"It's a rural area that's in transition. There's a lot of pressure for development in this area, and I think it needs to be well thought about before that happens," said Jack Foley, who has lived in the town for about 50 years.

On Wednesday, a contractor on site with the excavator told CBC News he had to call police when he felt people were coming dangerously close to the heavy equipment. 

As for the erosion protection project itself, Foley said he's not sure where that idea came from and believes it's an unnecessary endeavour. 

An excavator at Ragged Beach has residents of Witless Bay wondering what exactly the town is planning. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

What's more, Foley said a path developed by the East Coast Trail was widened and an excavator had driven across a section of the beach.

"I don't think it's a good thing. I don't think it's a necessary thing and there's been no consultation with residents. It looks like a lot of money that's done by the taxpayers of Witless Bay," he said.

"There's been no records. Nothing is showing how they've come to that decision, why they've decided to do it and I think we deserve some answers really."  

Confusion over construction

CBC News has contacted the town about obtaining copies of permits and records pertaining to construction at Ragged Beach. The town did not grant permission to the records and told CBC News to file an access to information request. CBC News has also tried contacting members of the town's council for comment, though had not received a response as of Friday night. 

According to a post that has since been deleted from the town's Facebook page, "This project is designed strictly for safety reasons only. There are no plans for any other type of construction."

The East Coast Trail Association said on Twitter on Friday that it was not consulted or informed that the Witless Bay town council had hired a contractor to address an erosion problem at Ragged Beach, and had been notified by a concerned resident about the construction happening in the area. 

"We are in the process of assessing the situation and the impact on the trail, and once we have reviewed the action taken we will decide on next steps from an informed base," the association said in a tweet.

Area residents convinced

Edward Vickers runs Friends of Ragged Beach, a non-profit society with the goal of protecting the beach from private development. 

Edward Vickers runs a group designed to protect Ragged Beach from private development. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Vickers said some town councillors are trying to help private developers by giving them access to the land. 

"They came up with a project, a bank erosion development project, which is bogus in my mind, but it's legitimate in a sense that they have the authority to do that," Vickers said. 

"But when they brought the excavator down, we found out what it was for. It was not for the erosion on the bank, from my perspective, it was for clearing a road up through the bush to clear up some land up there that they got from crown lands."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Meg Roberts