The road to getting provincial money for pavement can be long and defeating. Just ask the people in Colinet. The community has two gravel roads in particular that it’s been looking to get paved for years. One leads to Whitbourne and is used by people working in both Bull Arm and Long Harbour. Another leads to Placentia and is expected to be well travelled once the $2.5-billion West White Rose development gets underway.
Bill Davis near some potholes and a washed-out part of the Markland Road in Colinet that residents are desperate to have paved.— Photo by Josh Pennell/The Telegram
The road to Whitbourne — locally called the Markland Road — in particular is causing a number of people financial heartache and frustration.
Linda Hearn Corrigan has worked in Long Harbour for about a year.
“I could spend a fortune on my vehicle since I started Long Harbour between tires and the shocks and everything else you need to put on her,” she says.
The commute is about an hour. Taking that road instead of backtracking to the Salmonier Line and out to the Trans-Canada Highway shaves a good half hour off the time.
Still, there are times when Corrigan has to do just that.
“Oh my God. In the spring of the year? Couldn’t go over the road. Had to go out the Salmonier Line way to go to work.”
Parts of the road have been upgraded in recent years. They haven’t been paved, but gravel has been upgraded. In July of last year, 4.5 kilometres were upgraded in this way. John Patey, who also uses the road to commute to work, says it’s the first time it’s been graded fully since then. That was just a few weeks ago. The part that hasn’t been upgraded at all is worse again, he says.
”It’s soft in places. It’s below the bog. There’s no ditches,” says Patey. ”Any time you get a heavy rain now there’s three or four places (where) the culverts are all collapsed and the water runs over the roads.”
But it’s not just because of the commute to work that people like Hearn and Patey want the road paved. Colinet has an aging population and there is a medical centre people can’t get to in Whitbourne, on the other end of the gravel road.
In the spring of the year, Patey says, only a four-wheel drive is safe to take over the road. Because of the risk of damage at the best of times, people go into St. John’s, which takes at least twice as long.
“If anyone took a heart attack or anything else in the middle of the night — if that road was paved (in) a few minutes ... you’d be in there,” says Hearn. “It’s very depressing. Very depressing.”
Bill Davis has been advocating to get the roads paved for years. The community has a lot of potential for tourism and locals are looking to put businesses in the area, he says. One man wants to put a trailer park near the scenic Rocky River down the also unpaved road to Placentia. There is also interest in putting a zipline in the area.
“The province would gain by having this done,” says Davis.
Davis has been on Colinet council in the past and has been hit with the excuse there’s simply no money to pave the roads. He doesn’t think that’s no longer a valid excuse with so much bragging about the fine local economy.
“If we don’t get it done now, we’ll never get it done,” he says.
MHA for the area Felix Collins knows Davis and has heard his arguments for paving the roads many times. Collins says Davis is right when he says the opening up of the roads creates greater access to St. Mary’s Bay and from St. Mary’s Bay, which is of increasing importance as projects at the other end of the roads develop.
“They now have taken on strategic economic importance that perhaps was ignored previously,” Collins says.
Still, Collins says roadwork is still first on his agenda, especially on the St. Mary’s Bay side where residents have benefited from roadwork less than on the Placentia-Argentia side.
“We have made significant improvements in roads. Significant improvements,” Collins says.
The MHA also makes the point there is no main road through his district, which makes upgrades that will benefit the whole district tougher than in some other areas.
Not everyone is appeased by Collins’ reasons. In a recent letter to the editor published in The Telegram, Davis wrote “ I no longer have confidence in my elected government members. It has become extremely difficult, if not impossible to support this current government.”
Corrigan is like-minded.
“I don’t even know if I’m going to bother to vote any more,” she says.