Garbage lands too close to home

Tara Bradbury
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‘Green zone’ near Torbay cemetery anything but green, family says

Even during late afternoon traffic, things are quiet on Holy Trinity Lane in Torbay. Hidden from the main road behind homes and the town hall, the local cemetery is well-groomed and still. Its only watchman in the evening sun is a lone crow, perched upon a green garbage bag which has been torn open, yellowed grass clippings and bits of a broken plastic flower vase spilling out.

Garbage bags sit next to Holy Trinity cemetery in Torbay. At least one family says the refuse thrown in the town’s “green zone,” which borders the cemetery, is disrespectful.
— Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

The crow sits next to the cemetery, just outside the fence. A couple of hundred feet away, in the gravel space known as the town’s “green zone,” is a pile of refuse, looking like it was thrown out of a truck and left however it landed: a worn-out sofa, a broken wooden shelving unit, a child’s pink plastic vanity. Above that, there’s a sign from the town council, asking residents not to leave anything there but compostables and organic recyclables.

“What’s been described by the town as a green zone is nothing more than window-dressing for an open-air dump,” says Mike Heffernan of St. John’s.

Heffernan’s mother’s family is one of the oldest in Torbay, having settled in the community more than 150 years ago. Many of Heffernan’s relatives are buried in Holy Trinity cemetery, including his grandfather, who was the cemetery’s longtime caretaker.

Members of Heffernan’s surviving family are not happy with what they are calling a lack of respect being shown for the graves.

“Bulldozing a field adjacent to a residential area and covering it with gravel does not constitute a green zone,” Heffernan, who spent his childhood in Torbay, said. “Isn’t it the town’s responsibility to provide adequate security, infrastructure and regular cleanup?”

In 2008, some Torbay residents lobbied the town council to reverse a decision to locate a depot for heavy equipment near the same site; a decision that had passed by one vote. The central location of the site and easy access to the town’s roads were mentioned as factors in choosing the depot location. A petition with around 2,600 names was submitted to the council by an area resident that year.

Today, the depot lies between the green zone and the town hall. The green zone hosts a container for metal garbage, currently filled to the brim, and two locked bins for charitable donations of clothing and household items. The sign stating what organic garbage is and is not allowed notes video surveillance is in use in the area, but is being ignored.

“We do have a problem with people leaving garbage in that area,” says Mayor Ralph Tapper. “We don’t want to see that. We had a couple of blue boxes there to collect recyclables for a fundraiser, and we had to take them out of it, because people would leave everything there.

“It’s unfortunate. They don’t take it to Robin Hood Bay, they just leave it where it’s convenient for them. The only thing we can do is if people leave this type of garbage, we’ll take it and put it in the regular garbage (pickup) for the dump.”

Part of the problem, Tapper says, lies in the town’s inability to issue fines or tickets for illegal dumpers.

“Torbay is considered a small community,” he says. “Only a few communities — the three cities, St. John’s, Mount Pearl and Corner Brook— have the ability to issue tickets or take people to court. We don’t have that ability.”

Tapper, whose family members are also buried in the cemetery, says town officials visited the green zone site on Saturday, after The Telegram first inquired about the garbage. A pile of garbage close to the cemetery — the crow’s lookout — was determined to be bags of lawn clippings, broken flower pots and wind-tattered silk flowers, picked up by the landscapers hired by the parish to take care of the graveyard, he says, and therefore the parish’s responsibility.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Geographic location: Torbay, Holy Trinity, Robin Hood Bay Mount Pearl Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • Anonymous
    July 22, 2014 - 20:08

    Mr. Tapper, have you ever heard the saying ' it's not but fault, but it is my responsibility '. Words to live by, especially when running a town.

  • JMAP
    July 22, 2014 - 13:32

    I'm surprised that the Mayor hasn't blamed the Mountain Bikers..... last week they were blamed for most other damage in the town.....suggest you stop scapegoating and clean up your community, that's what you were elected to do.

  • Sheri
    July 22, 2014 - 09:48

    I know people working on the graves shouldn't have left those bags. But in their defence, especially if they're not living in the town & are only there during the summer to clean up the graves, they may not know there is a specific area to put the grass, etc & thought it would be ok to leave it by the fence. The entire place just looks like a general dump site. The grass is not the big problem with the area anyway, it's the huge amount of garbage on the other side of the area, furniture etc. Although people are not permitted to dump that stuff there, since the council put the place there & are not willing to make sure there is no illegal dumping, then it IS their responsibility to clean it up.

  • Victoria
    July 22, 2014 - 09:45

    This article sounds more like a disgrace to tge cemetery rather than the point of the green zone being approximately 200 ft away where a sign clearly states "grass clippings" in the organic drop off area. Along with the rat problem Torbay has been experiencing, this "green zone" is going to start attracting them more if it's not kept up on. The debris could be there for a week or more before the town finally cleans up or disposes of all the drop off items. But also the speeding dump trucks, and vehicles as well coming down this one way lane is extremely dangerous for children who live there. I wouldn't speed through a neighborhood so why do people think to speed down this Lane is respectable or safe. But yet the Mayor stated that unfortunately the town cannot fine people for dumping in the green zone illegally but there is video what can be done? To me this screams, dump your garbage here. We'll clean it up for you. In the next week or two or three...When we get a chance. Yes security is in the area in the night time but he speeds up and down the lane like it's the ORR and has only solved the problem with people coming down to hide away and do drugs/drink or whatever people hide away to do. This has not solved the dumping in the area. Three kids live on this Lane, it would be great if not only the cemetery (as this article is focused on) but our little neighborhood was respected as everyone else's.

  • jay
    July 22, 2014 - 09:23

    I suggest council take a look at the dumping from campers by the cemetary on Bauline Line. After every weekend bags are left for birds to tear open. I don't know why these people with cottages can't take their garbage home rather than leave it by the side of the road.

  • Kayla
    July 22, 2014 - 08:31

    Also cars, trucks and dump trucks fly up and down like complete savages... When there are several children in the aera at play. Can't get no signs up.

    • Shelley
      July 22, 2014 - 09:02

      I love when I read..."The Parish's responsibility". The garbage is the dump site they built behind the cemetary that they are not taking care of, not shown in picture. Green Zone my ass! Dump in the daytime and hangout for people in the night time. There goes Torbay Concil passing the buck to someone else like they always do.. All you ever here is...isn't there responsibility....someone else's fault.... The speeding COUNCIL vehicles do up and down this lane in unreal. Not public vehciles, COUNCIL DUMPTRUCKS! Consistently contacted about it and nothing done. Who do they blame this on to pass the buck again to someone else! No consideration for families and kids living there. When a child is hit by these speeding huge trucks, who does council blame this on. I'd like to add that I am aware of a resident who owns a piece of land in Bauline Line, a highway, that Council refused to let start a gravel business, even after the resident took them to court and won the case! The refused this on a highway and let this go on, on a tiny one car acess lane. Again, shows Concil ignoring there own laws and doing what they want. A petition was done up to stop this is the first place and received the required amount of signatures and yet it was put there anyway?

  • Krista
    July 22, 2014 - 08:27

    What about the family who's land meets the town's new garbage dump. This garbage disposal is going to attract rats and evetually cause health problems. Meanwhile that property has been in their family for over 100 years. How about the traffic flying up and down Holy Trinity Lane, the family living there have children that play, so that's another hazard. If the land is not being used for what the city "intended" then they should put up a gate..... Pretty bad the mayor is scapegoating.... "Landscapers hired by the parishto take care of the graveyard, he says, and therefore the parish's responsibility." Sounds to me like it's time for election so the town can have a mayor that doesn't scapegoat and take on responsibility...

  • Mike
    July 22, 2014 - 04:17

    Some people have absolutely no RESPECT FOR THE DEAD.