PORT AU CHOIX, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Residents of Port au Choix are pleased the provincial government has recently repaved the town’s main road.
Jeannie Billard believes a protest held in the town on April 10, 2017 is what led to government giving the green light on the project.
Billard is coordinator of the Port au Choix Hospitality Development Committee – the group that organized the demonstration last year at the entrance to the town.
“I went to the council and told them what I had in mind,” she said. “We got some signs and put them around. We asked people to come and give their support because everybody was fed up with the roads.”
About 100 people showed up for the demonstration, Billard said. The road was blocked and media outlets were contacted.
“The government realized that Port au Choix was a National Historic Site and that we were at the bottom of the list when it comes to road repairs. On April 10, 2017, we weren’t even in (government’s) five-year (provincial roads) plan... Now, here we are today, with a brand-new road,” an elated Billard said.
According to Parks Canada, over 15,000 people visited Port au Choix National Historic Site in 2017.
Billard, who was elected to council about five months after the protest, credits the determination of the residents (a petition with over 1,000 signatures was presented to government) in getting the road paved. There was no cost to the town, she said.
She tossed accolades to St. Barb-Lanse aux Meadows MHA Chris Mitchelmore (who is also the province’s Tourism minister) who she said, supported the residents as did former Transportation and Works minister Al Hawkins.
Now that the main road has been paved, she said, residents are taking more pride in their properties.
“People are painting their sheds and cleaning up their property. We’re going to make this a tourist town,” Billard said.
While Port au Choix Mayor Donald Spence is glad the road has been paved, he would have liked to have had more communication between the provincial government and the town concerning the project.
The town did have some discussions with the contractor on-site. Although Spence understands the road is a provincial government road, Spence said, when council asked government for a copy of the contract, months before the project started, it wasn’t provided.
“We didn’t see the contract first nor last... I wish council had more input into what was being done,” the mayor said.
In an e-mailed statement about the project, Mitchelmore said residents and visitors to Port au Choix will benefit for many years from the significant re-investment of approximately 2.3 kms of provincial roads in the community, thanks to government’s five-year roads plan.
According to the 2018 Provincial Roads Plan 2018 Edition, in 2017 government announced 75 per cent of the projects planned for 2018-19. The remaining 25 per cent were added based on emerging issues, input from engineers, and input from residents, the report noted.
Mitchelmore said details were released publicly for the Port au Choix paving contract and published in a Northern Pen news article.
As MHA, he said, he met with council on multiple occasions and also encouraged them to reach out to the contractor.
“At any time a town council can connect with my office on matters of provincial concern or directly with the appropriate department,” he said. “This investment will help continue momentum for tourism, fisheries and more small business opportunities in Port au Choix.”
Wait is over
Todd House, who helped organize the 2017 demonstration, was elected to council months after the protest.
“I’m very happy and all of our residents are extremely happy. We’ve been a long time waiting for this,” he said.
House agrees with Billard that the residents’ actions in bringing forward the deplorable condition of the road is what got them their new pavement.
House had also posted pictures of the road on the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) website where it drew enough votes to be named the 10th worst road in Atlantic Canada in 2017.
“The road is nice to drive on now. We’re very happy,” he said.