Clyde Jefford’s excavator weighs 15 tonnes and can move rocks like marshmallows — but it’s been sitting idle since the Conception Bay South bypass cut off its access road.
The Upper Gullies farmer uses the excavator to clear the 45 acres of land he has south of the bypass on Andrews Road, where he grows vegetables — including carrots, turnips and potatoes — and hay. But the bypass cut Andrews in two like scissors through ribbon, and the new access road can’t accommodate the trailer needed to move the piece of heavy equipment, stranding the excavator south of the bypass.
“We knew that road was going to be cut off, and we had to enter from Scotts Road, which was no problem at the time,” Jefford said Friday.
Larch Grove Place intersects with Scotts, and connects to Andrews. But last fall, Jefford learned the Larch Grove-Scotts intersection is too tight for the lengthy trailer to make the turn.
Telephone poles sit at three of the intersection’s four corners, including two that tightly flank Larch Grove Place.
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No simple solution
But even if the poles weren’t there, says Jefford, the turning radius would require the trailer to cut across the lawns of a couple of houses at the intersection, chewing the ground up with 15 tonnes of steel at best, getting stuck at worst.
Since then, Jefford and his wife Patricia have been trying to obtain a solution from the provincial government, calling several offices — transportation, agriculture, their MHA — but with nothing to show for it.
“It’s very discouraging, and we have no more answers now than we had seven months ago,” said Patricia. Even more pressing than moving the excavator out is trucking in the tonnes of lime needed to prepare the cleared ground (lime reduces soil’s acidity, providing for better crop yields). The amount of lime needed requires a vehicle at least as big as the one for the excavator, said Clyde Jefford.
In the seven months of phone calls and discussions of various government officials, said Clyde, solutions have been discussed, but no action has been taken. His suggestion of building a turnoff to and merge lane back from Andrews has been rejected, he said, while government officials have suggested temporarily reconnecting the bisected Andrews Road and removing the guardrails on the C.B.S. bypass to get the excavator out.
“That’s not even up to the standard of a Band-Aid solution,” said Clyde, who noted that it would have been done at least twice a year. That temporary solution was first floated a month ago, said Clyde, and nothing has happened since then.
The Jeffords are running out of time; next month, they’ll start reaping the hay, after which Clyde hopes to start clearing another three acres for next year’s growing season. He’ll still be able to clear the land for next season, but says there’s not much point in clearing it if the lime can’t get in, and he doesn’t want to leave the excavator untended, far from his home, through another winter. The Jeffords say they’re getting the runaround because their farm is a relatively small operation.
“It’s only a family farm, but this is our livelihood,” said Patricia on Friday.