Those who attended a public meeting Tuesday night to discuss a proposal to develop a private park and campground on Blackhead Road leading to Cape Spear had a lot of problems with the proposed development.
More than 50 people attended the meeting at St. John’s City Hall, and those who spoke about the proposed Cape Spear Family Campground raised a number of issues. Each time a speaker finished, the rest of the audience clapped to show their support.
The proposed park and campground covers a 21-acre property with frontage of 105 metres along Blackhead Road. It would have 38 spaces for RVs and 143 for tents and small trailers, plus yurts, a multi-purpose building, a greenhouse and a small barn. The property is located in front of Long Pond.
Phil Oliver, who has lived in the area all his life, expressed concerns about the effect the park would have when it’s filled to capacity with campers, suggesting it could triple the population of the area with upwards of 700 people at the site.
“We’ve got a little unique community out here,” said Oliver. “It’s quiet.”
He also said it would have a noticeable effect on traffic in the area, which is already significant in the spring and summer, given the nearby presence of the most easterly point in North America — the Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site.
Area resident Angela King said even if the proponent plans to enforce a policy banning the public consumption of alcohol at the site, noise from the park is bound to affect nearby residents.
“Campers like to party,” she said, suggesting they will congregate at a local beach to drink.
Wes Ryan, who is originally from the area and plans to move back there in a year, said the alcohol rule would be hard to enforce and the park and campground would prove costly to residents.
“People live in Blackhead because it’s quiet, because it has animals and it has low-density housing,” said Ryan. “So how’s the quality of life affected for these people who’ve moved to this community for this very reason?”
William Hamlyn said he moved to Blackhead a few years ago for those reasons. The proposed park would be built directly behind his home. He said his daughter picks blueberries there, and he once shot a moose in the woods behind his home.
Matthew Mills from Tract Consulting gave a presentation based on a land use assessment report he prepared for the proponent. He said the proponent has taken steps to reduce the proposed park and campground’s effect on the area.
“In the design of the campground, we’ve tried our best to provide and promote a low-impact solution,” said Mills.
He emphasized the park will not promote a party atmosphere and noted the owners plan to live on-site while it operates. There will also be a park ranger patrolling the site.
Offering more spaces for tents and small trailers instead of RVs is a move to discourage long-term camping, Mills said. He also made note of the proposed vegetation buffer between the campground and homes on Blackhead Road, which would range from 80-125 metres. Mills said that distance is comparable to the size of the soccer pitch at King George V Park in St. John’s.
Attempts would also be made to reduce the visual impact by keeping lights below the treeline, he said.
The discretionary use application for the proposed development will go back to city council members for their consideration.