‘I was born here and I’ll drown here’

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Paul Hutchings
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Beaches residents return home as relocation debate resurfaces

Beaches — Residents of Beaches returned to their homes Tuesday a day after being forced to leave by a storm that threatened to destroy the only road out of the community.

All 40 residents were evacuated to nearby Hampden when high winds stirred up waves that threatened the road and their homes.

Although there wasn’t as much damage as there could have been, the talk in the community now has turned to the future — whether Beaches will remain populated or if residents will be relocated.

A vote for relocation in the past yielded a no answer, with two people saying they would not leave.

One of those was lifelong resident Arthur Osmond.

“I was born here and I’ll drown here,” he said as he raked seaweed from the front yard of his home. “I’m not going anywhere. There’s no need of it.”

He said if the provincial government would install a stronger retaining wall against the water in White Bay, with which Beaches is practically level, he believes there would not be an issue.

Arthur Osmond may be alone in his way of thinking, however.

Beaches local service district chairman Doug Osmond said although he has been against relocation all along, the recent activity has softened his view.

“It may very well be time to consider it, whatever the government decides to do, that’s what we will probably do,” he said.

In spite of this, he is already looking into other options, such as a higher retaining wall and a more stable road.

Doug Osmond said he is looking at a plan to place large rocks along the bay front, which he hopes will help keep the waves away.

However, another resident, Stewart Osmond, wants out.

He believes the lack of ice in the bay is the real problem, and he doesn’t see that problem going away any time soon.

“It used to be that the bay would freeze up, so when the high winds would come, we would not have any waves threatening our houses,” he said. “But now that’s not happening anymore and we’re in danger, it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt or worse.”

Beaches is situated at the bottom of a large treed hill, which Stewart said is another cause of concern for the community because the trees are dying due to an insect infestation that started several years ago. Stewart believes if the waves don’t destroy the homes, rock slides might.

Resident Albert Osmond agrees with Stewart and said he would move if he could afford it.

Albert said it’s difficult to sleep sometimes at night knowing that at any moment his house could be hit with a rock from behind or a rogue wave from the front.

“We started lobbying in the 1980s to be moved. In fact the night the Ocean Ranger went down in 1982 we had a terrible storm and that’s what started (the movement),” he said. “But we were told that two people didn’t want to go so we couldn’t be relocated. I thought majority was supposed to rule?”

Humber Valley MHA Darryl Kelly said he feels it may be time to revisit the relocation idea for Beaches.

“I think it needs to be looked at again and if it’s the wishes of the people then it should happen,” he said. “But government doesn’t force resettlement, that’s our policy. Everyone has to want to relocate.”

Boyd Gavin, vice-chairman of the Beaches local service district is not optimistic.

“Whatever serves the government at the time, that’s what the government will do,” he said. “I would vote to go, and I suppose Hampden would be the first choice, who knows what may happen?”

The Western Star

Geographic location: White Bay

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