Council turns to public for suggestions, improvements at first of three meetings
In an effort to tap into the growing ecotourism market, Port aux Basques council is looking to develop its network of walking trails, beginning with scenic Grand Bay West beach. On Monday evening, Jan. 22, the town hosted its first of three consultations at the Bruce II, and despite the poor weather over 20 people showed up to share their thoughts.
The Grand Bay West beach trail is a relatively easy loop located within the town that offers an elevated boardwalk along the length of the first beach and a gravel pathway, ending with a stroll along a second scenic beach.
It is popular year-round with locals, particularly dog walkers and snowmobilers.
Lookout points with benches are placed strategically, and the area has seen a bit of growth as more tourists have discovered the area.
Now the town wants to continue to nurture that growth and has turned to the public for suggestions on how to accomplish it.
“We have done some work in the past years,” said Deputy Mayor Todd Strickland. “Last year we did some significant work in the beach area.”
Town council asked three specific questions to prompt feedback: What is going well? What needs to be improved upon? Where do we go from here?
Strickland said while all suggestions would be welcome, some might not prove feasible due to budgetary constraints. The town couldn’t be responsible for cleaning up garbage or pet waste on trails, said Strickland, since there’s no money allowed for a full-time employee to enforce those regulations.
The informal session resulted in over an hour of back and forth discussion, with the primary concern identified as poor parking.
As the town owns considerable land in the area, it will look at expanding the parking area to help alleviate congestion.
“You look around the province and you see a lot of areas that developed ecotourism in a big-time way,” said Mayor John Spencer, who used Woody Point and the Signal Hill Trails in St. John’s as positive examples.
As an avid walker, Spencer sees potential in the area’s trails and scenic attractions.
“I walked 45 minutes at Western Brook Pond and I got out there and I wondered why I walked 45 minutes to get on a boat to do something I can do down on the southwest coast, which we have tremendous capability to do,” he said. “But if we don’t get out there and prove it, don’t get out there and sell it, we’ll never become a Woody Point.”
Some points brought forth by the discussion to develop the Town of Port aux Basques’ network of walking trails during a public meeting Jan. 22 included:
- Larger and more strategically positioned signage promoting directions to the beach, including on the waterfront kiosks where tourists tend to wander during the summer months.
- The possibility of working with Marine Atlantic, much like last summer’s joint project to offer a shuttle for tourists to the downtown core.
- A bandstand for live music performances.
- Using social media, particularly posting free reviews and photos on Trip Advisor, to help direct online tourists who pre-plan trips to the southwest coast.
- A Facebook page with drone video footage of the trail and beaches.
- Improved accessibility as the loose gravel before the boardwalk and throughout the trail are difficult for seniors and parents pushing strollers.
- Possible extension of the boardwalk via various fundraising initiatives, including purchasing a section in memory of a loved one or asking for donations of reclaimed wood.
- Connecting the two trails, perhaps with an elevated boardwalk over the rocks and water, much like was done at the bottom of Harbour Restaurant downtown, since there’s no room along the gut road for a sidewalk.
- Day-use site for picnics and fire pits.
- Street lights and a life preserver station.
- ATV rides/wagon rides on the beach, or possibly horse rides.
- A kiosk for cold refreshments, with a possible sheltered area much like a gazebo for seniors.
- A separate marked trail along the path for ATV/snowmobile use only.
- Promotion of endangered seabirds such as the piping plover, as the area is close enough to Codroy Valley that different non-native birds also frequent the trail’s beaches.
- Improved traffic signage for speed limits on the bridge approaching the beach, and perhaps a speed bump to slow drivers down.
- An outdoor shower and/or hose to rinse off sand.
- Video surveillance to discourage vandalism and theft.
- More trash cans and dog waste stations along the trail.
- More bathrooms along the trail instead of just near the parking lot.