Nova Scotia

Peggys Cove safety to be discussed by Nova Scotia, federal officials

The Nova Scotia government will hold its first meeting this week with community members and federal officials to determine what needs to be done at Peggys Cove to prevent further loss of life, following one death this spring and a near miss last week.

Many Peggys Cove locals want new solutions that keep people safe during their visit

One of many warning signs are positioned around Peggys Cove, warning visitors to stay off the wet rocks. Earlier this spring, one man died after being swept into the water by a wave. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia government will hold its first meeting this week with community members and federal officials to determine what needs to be done at Peggys Cove to prevent further loss of life, following one death this spring and a near miss last week.

Some of those who live and work in the Cove have suggestions for the government. 

Sou'Wester Restaurant and Gift Shop owner, John Campbell, said several years ago, the province paid crews to patrol the rocks and warn visitors.

"We called them rock patrollers," Campbell said. "I think they did a great job warning people."

While reporting at Peggys Cove on Monday, CBC observed three instances in an hour where people — including two children — stood on the wet rocks despite the numerous danger signs in the area. A Nova Scotia woman was so concerned, she urged one group to move off the rocks.

Les Szabo from Welland, O.N., says he was immediately aware of the potential hazards, despite only seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time Sunday. (CBC)

Others, like Les Szabo from Welland, O.N., were aware of the potential hazards, despite only seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time Sunday.

"I think common sense would dictate," he said. "Even on the lighthouse it's written be mindful of the sea, respect it, keep your distance from it or you're going to fall in."

Safety solutions

Campbell said the problem at Peggys is twofold: keeping people off the rocks and retrieving them once they've been swept into the sea.

"If there is some type of life-saving, flotation device that you could shoot out, that would be more effective," he said.

"I don't know if there is. … But something that would shoot out a 100 metres and maybe inflate or something after it was shot out would be effective."

Bruce Stephen, who spends his days taking pictures of tourists at Peggys Cove, says he's always worried about people being swept into the sea. 

He said a friend's idea is a good one.

"A seadoo on standby with somebody who knows how to operate it can zip out there, manoeuvre around the rocks, the waves, and everything else with a little platform on the back and they could get somebody pretty quickly I would think," he said.

Peter Richardson, owner of Peggys Cove Boat Tours, helped pulled a man from Ontario out of the choppy water last week. (CBC)

Both Stephen and Campbell were working last week when an Ontario man was washed off the rocks and into the water, and was in the water for about 10 minutes.

Stephen says he has nothing but praise for Campbell, who was the first to respond with Peter Richardson, owner of Peggys Cove Boat Tours, who risked his own life and boat to save the man.

Stephen says it's not just those in the water who are in danger, but also those who attempt to rescue them.

Fencing off the problem

Some have suggested putting up fences in the area, but Campbell and Stephen both say that's not practical given hurricanes and their strength. They said any fence would be destroyed.

Szabo doesn't like that idea.

"There's plenty of warning signs around," he said. "It's clearly labelled and I think it would actually ruin the natural aesthetic if they tried throwing up fences."

Heather and Don Boyle from Vancouver agree.

"Putting up barriers and fences would be so sad," she said. "It's so picturesque here and putting up any fences would detract so much."

Campbell also said it's important for officials to be onsite during bad storms. Last July, he said the RCMP were called to keep people off the rocks during a hurricane.

The government has no time frame for determining what, if anything, it will do.

Tourism Nova Scotia spokeswoman Sonya Horsburgh said the government is "committed to working with this group to take measures that will improve safety, while maintaining public access and preserving the natural beauty of this well-loved landmark and tourist attraction."

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca

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