Governments pony up to help Petty Harbour create parking spaces
By Mark Squibb | Vol. 12 No. 18 (September 4, 2019)
Government officials admit that a recent government announcement of a combined federal and provincial contribution of over $50,000 in funding towards the creation of Petty Harbour’s first paved parking lot will help assuage the problem of congestion in the coastal community, but will not solve the problem indefinitely.
“It’s not going to solve the problem, we all know that, but it’ll help,” summarised Mayor Samuel Lee.
The fenced parking lot, which is expected to accommodate 24 vehicles, will be on Skinner’s Hill near the Petty Harbour Hydro Electric Generating Station. In addition, new signage will direct those coming into the community to parking spots.
St. John's South — Mount Pearl MP Seamus O’ Regan and provincial Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development Christopher Mitchelmore were on hand at Petty Harbour Town Hall on Thursday, Aug. 22, to announce a non-repayable contribution of $37,390 in federal funding and $21,894 in provincial funding towards the project.
Both told reporters that they are open to keeping the dialogue going and working on further solutions to the parking dilemma.
“We want to see this town continue to have greater success. And this is a great problem to have. And if we have to come back and look at other options in the future, that’s an opportunity we’ll explore,” said Mitchlemore. “I think it’s important that we get this lot established, monitored, work with the town, see what the impacts are, and if there’s required further solutions, we will certainly work with the town and the federal government again to find further solutions. But this is a significant step forward to solving a major problem that’s developed by the success of the community. Twenty-four spaces will make a significant difference to us here right now, and will help the business grow.”
O’Regan noted the new signage, though not as exciting as the prospect of a new parking lot, will also improve parking in the community, especially during the busy summer months.
“I would say that signage is almost as important as parking,” said O’Regan. “Tourists will enter the community, and immediately go, ‘Well where do I go now?’ and that just backlogs traffic. So, if you can immediately direct them to where they could put their cars and do their rubbernecking as pedestrians, and not as drivers, I think that will help with the problem too.”
Money for the project had been earmarked since the spring, said O’Regan, but he noted the announcement (and construction) had to wait for all the I’s to be dotted and T’s crossed.
Part of the process was reaching a deal with Newfoundland Power, which is leasing the site for an as yet undisclosed sum, to the town for the next 15 years.
“It took us a little while, unfortunately, to lock down this agreement with Light and Power. I think all heads knew that we needed to get this done as quickly as we can. I would of loved to have had this done years ago. I’ve been an MP for four years now and we knew that this is going to be a problem, but I’m happy that we found a solution. Or I shouldn’t say a solution; happy that we’re finding a way to manage an ongoing success,” said O’Regan.
Outside the site of the press conference, meanwhile, livyers, fishermen – both professional and ‘recreational’ – and tourists continued to jostle for space along the community’s narrow, winding streets.
One resident pointed out to the Irish Loop Post how narrow Skinner’s Hill is; really, it’s a one-way street passing as a two-lane street, he contended.
“You’ve got someone coming out, and someone trying to get there. They can’t pass each other. What’s going to happen?” said Mike Hearn, dexterously fileting a cod without missing a beat.
Hearn has been living and working in Petty Harbour for decades, pointing out his own home on the steep Southside Road from his stage head on the wharf.
Petty Harbour has always been a popular destination for tourists, said Hearn, but the number of visitors has skyrocketed over the past couple of summers.
It’s no surprise; the town boasts a world class zipline, an espresso-based coffee bar, a prestigious restaurant, ice cream parlour, access to the East Coast Trail, mini aquarium, boat tours, and more.
Hearn said the congestion is more than a superficial concern of residents; if an emergency vehicle, say an ambulance or firetruck, needed to reach a home, the traffic, congestion, and cars parked along both sides of the road, would severely hinder the vehicle.
He also admits that when it comes to parking lots, he doesn’t see a whole lot of options.
“There’s not a lot of places here to do it,” he conceded, noting that land just outside the main community hub might be the best bet.
He floated the idea of a shuttle service as another option worth exploring.
“Have a bus, charge them $2… it’s only a short run,” he said. “You won’t make no pile of money, but you’ll make a few dollars at it.”
That was also an idea floated by Mitchlemore during the press conference, saying that services such as the St. John’s Hop On - Hop Off bus has seen success.
“If they added a service to stop here in Petty Harbour, you’re bringing in pedestrian traffic, not vehicles, so they don’t crowd parking spaces,” said Mitchlemore. “There’s a multitude of opportunities that exist, and alternatives, to find out how the town and business community will grow. But that happens with consultation, it happens with dialogue, that happens with looking at all those opportunities.”