[Note: the above map of the harbour fence has been updated
to match new information from City Hall and St. John's Port
Authority. Read more
A major modification is about to happen to an integral part of
St. John's and very few people know about it.
This coming Monday, December 10th, St. John's City Council will
vote [UPDATE: Council had already approved
funding; there will be no vote] on a proposal to build a
permanent fence along the majority of the St. John's harbour apron.
Public awareness of the issue has been limited, and when it has
been discussed there have been more questions raised than
CBC article and Scope
column on the issue]
Some of the answers came at the December 4th meeting
of the St. John's Development Committee. Two primary points of
interest to citizens are:
- 60% of the harbour will be closed to the public.
- The other 40% will have limited public access.
- The city does not have jurisdiction over the port itself - that
falls to the St. John's Port Authority, a federal agency, who
initiated the fence project and requested the city's
Here are selected, official notes from the
[Paul Sheppard from the Port Authority and Ray Bailey,
Engineering Consultant] attended the meeting and gave a
presentation and update with respect to the Harbour Drive Fence
Project. As a point of background, they indicated that following
the 911 terrorist attack, agencies, and in particular Transport
Canada, have requested improved security measures for ports across
the country. Recognizing the St. John's port is a working port, it
has become necessary to secure the area for safety and immigration
The fence project, while initially estimated at $900,000, a
modification to keep the viewing area at ground level, was
necessary to keep the project on budget. It is hoped that a January
tender call will result in competitive prices and an early start on
Discussion took place as to the logistics of the fence
operating noting that approximately 60% of the harbor front will be
locked most of the time to facilitate operations for vessels. This
area will be opened on an exception basis only. As for the
remaining 40%, there will be limited access for the public,
particularly in the area of the Keg where two new restaurants are
soon to be under construction.
here to read the full set of notes]
Happy City promotes a belief that open and constructive dialogue
is the key to a successful, inclusive city. City Hall has made
great strides over the years since Happy City's inception: public
engagement by the City has progressed rapidly, as exemplified in
the ongoing municipal plan review.
The way the fence proposal has proceeded to this point,
however, has not met the standard of transparency we have grown to
expect -- and this particular decision has the potential to
dramatically disconnect our citizens from the very heart of our
A secure, busy, and industrial harbour is vital to our city's
prosperity and sense of identity. The harbour, though, is more than
simply an economic engine. It is also a public space - one that
directly connects the people of this city with many of the things
that make St. John's a special place to live. But the people
of the city love our harbour and want to remain connected to it;
changes to the harbour should not override all the other roles
the harbour plays in our city.
Is a fence that restricts public access to the harbour the right
thing to do? Is it worth almost half a million taxpayer dollars?
Does the fence fall within the city's long-term vision as developed
by the people who live and work here? What alternative approaches
were considered (temporary / movable options, alternate designs,
These are not rhetorical questions - the fact of the matter is
that we do not have the answers and the only way to get them is for
our City Hall to engage us on the issue before they make a decision
that will affect everyone.
For as long as we've been a community, livyers and visitors
alike have enjoyed strolling along the harbour apron looking at the
variety of ships, looking at the historic sites, and smelling the
salt water. Do we the people want our harbour experience restricted
indefinitely? This must be asked, and we hope the City Hall and the
Port Authority take the time to do so.