St. John's wants to build a permanent, locked fence on the harbour.

Harbour Fence Diagram

[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 here.]

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 answered.

[See a 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 involvement.

Here are selected, official notes from the meeting:

[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 issues.

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 construction.

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.

[Click 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 city.

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, etc.)?

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.

Written by Dave Lane at 10:00

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Dan Miller said...
Just came back from a Sunday walk along the waterfront and am very depressed. I believe Mayor O'Keefe said it was going to be so attractive that parents would want to bring their families down to see it. Nothing like bringing your kids down to experience what a prison feels like. Even the phony semi-circular viewing areas present nothing but more bars to look at. St. John's Port Authority and our City Council have stolen one of the unique gems of this city from it's citizens!
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ニューバランス スニーカー
September 21, 2013 07:24
Sherwin Flight said...
Your updated post says there would be no vote taking place on December 10 in regards to the fence. While a vote did take place back in September the fence was also included in the budget vote that took place on December 10th, so your original post was correct in this regard.
December 16, 2012 08:15
G said...
Oh...and why dont we get rid of that Russian eyesore/intimidating threat to public saftey that we've all allowed to take up such precious wharf space for so long. I dont speak Russian but I know the name by now-Lyubov Orlova. What the hell is that infested thing still doing down there. Can someone cut the ropes on that thing and sink it to the bottom of the north atlantic where it belongs. Im sure one of our ships wouldnt be taking up space like that on any foreign wharf. Talk about Fear...and what about not letting any more spanish trawlers in the harbour (yes, those trawlers-the ones that are still allowed to commit rape crimes on the precious cod in an ocean supposedly managed by Canada and Newfoundland and 'The Law of the Sea'. Did anyone notice that a couple months ago. Who are we anyway, letting this shit go on in this day and age. We must stand up for ourselves and ourplace and elect people who can stand up to the world at times of threatening adversity. We cant let everyone in either. This is our province and town. A fence can only keep out the flying fish-robotic ones made somewhere off the island of Bermuda in a hole in the ocean floor. A battery of sorts, nuclear powered, secret, managed by a rare race unknown to any human, existing only in minds conjuled by Fear.
December 9, 2012 12:03
G said...
Poop for brains!
December 9, 2012 11:19
Liam McKenna said...
Why couldn't they switch it up? Put the cruise ships, Harvey's yard and other 'security' concerns on the south side and move the small boat harbour to the city side? Be more interesting too.
December 9, 2012 06:57
Rick Cave said...
I just wonder if they are going to do the same in Halifax where there is much more of a waterfront...there are restaurants, bars and stores on their waterfront and is great for strolling especially in the summer...this is a federal rule & regulation so I guess all those businesses in Halifax will close as well or are there exemptions to the policy and if so St. John's certainly should be exempt as well, afterall it has been our God given right for over 500 years to walk the St. John's Waterfront.
December 8, 2012 03:55
Kim Bell said...
Absolutely against this fencing. How could Council fail to realise that this should be a public-consultation issue? I'm very disappointed. Also tired of "9-11" justifications. 9-11 was ELEVEN YEARS AGO. What, did it take ELEVEN YEARS for someone to think of a fence on the harbour? Can't have been a high priority. Sounds more like the "security industry". Plus: if as they say they are concerned about terrorism, and security, and safety, and immigration ... [a] the fence is only on one side of a dock that is hollow underneath with lots of ways in and it's accessible from the water side of course, and we didn't hear in the "plan" about more boats and divers, underwater fences, sonar, etc. Clearly a fence on one side of the pasture doesn't keep the cows in. So at best, even if you accept everything they say, their plan is fatally incomplete. It's a simplistic non-solution to a non-problem. [b] Next will be scanners and guards, i.e. more money. [c] If we haven't had much trouble so far, we don't need a fence. [d] Water, harbours, and boats are part of life in NL including this City. This proposed fence, at great expense, will take that away. [e] I vote against this fence; fences are inherently ugly, and I vote against spending even one dime of out tax money to destroy a beautiful part of our life in this City.
December 8, 2012 03:32
Happy City, Please check out the Friday, January 29th, 2010 CBC radio podcast from Ted Blade's "On the Go" show. It features an interview with St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe discussing emphatically, his desire for the "socialization of the harbourfront". Thanks
December 8, 2012 04:54
G M M said...
This sounds like a njghtmare or a bad joke.
December 7, 2012 07:13
Juanita said...
It never ceases to amaze me how Newfoundland can f..k up a good thing. Walking along the harbor is so lovely and enjoyed by Newfoundlanders and tourists alike!!
December 7, 2012 06:01
Sherwin Flight said...
For those interested there is a petition and a march in protest of this fence. Petition is here: (Over 1000 signatures) Facebook event page for the march:
December 7, 2012 04:44
Nexxy said...
Hey, I have a better idea, how about spend all that money on fixing the SEWAGE that is dumped into the harbour every day. If it has been fixed already that is great (haven't been to St. John's for quite sometime), if not, THAT should be the priority, not restricting access to the harbour, doing that does nothing.
December 7, 2012 01:27
Melanie Caines said...
This would be an absolutely shame. Love the city you live in, smarten up, and think about the course of your actions. Do not let this happen.
December 7, 2012 10:17
pep wakeham said...
Are they out of their minds, haven't they got anything better to spend money on ? Like a fence is going to keep any body out !! Down with the fence !!!
December 7, 2012 09:58
Ben Jesseau said...
If not for the existence of the harbour, this city would not exist. If anything, the harbour should be promoted and celebrated, not hidden away behind a wall. I am appalled that city council is considering using our tax dollars to effectively ban us from the most historic part of our city. Where is the evidence that supports the argument that this fence is necessary? If it is for the anomalous reason of "security", then what instances have occurred that necessitate this? This past summer, I managed the Newman Wine Vaults, a provincial historic site in this city and I can tell you right now, that the overwhelming majority of tourists that visit this city from cruise ships are enamoured by the unique atmosphere of St. John's and its citizens. What kind of message is it sending to have visitors to the city greeted by a wall? Rise up people of St. John's and let's stop the asinine plans of an un-elected "authority".
December 7, 2012 08:15
Unbelievable. Please tell me what evidence there is that we need this fence - how many "threats" of any kind have actually been made? Funny that other beautiful and far busier waterways remain unfenced e.g. the Thames, the Seine. I for one would prefer our harbour remained beautiful, visible and accessible and forego emulating the ugliness of becoming basically a sealed off container port.
December 7, 2012 07:35
Nick said...
What does this have to do with terrorism? This fence is about protecting assets and only restricts/affects local residents. The government needs to use and apply the term "security" more carefully, as it can be extremely offensive.
December 7, 2012 06:47
Liam McKenna said...
I sense civil disobedience in my future if this proceeds as planned. Unfortunately, feds pulling the strings. If this fence goes up, it will never come down. I refuse to live my life in fear of terrorism. Freshwater bay should be developed instead of this band-aid to meet the requirements of federal legislation that is fear mongering to start with. The best security for the harbour would be to have lots of people around as much of the time as possible. In other words, public use enhancement. Liam
December 7, 2012 05:32
I just sent the following email to Sean Hanrahan of the Port Authority: Hi Mr. Hanrahan: I am writing to you,the CEO of the Port Authority, as I would like to register my concerns around the proposed harbourfront fencing. I understand that the Port Authority, not the City, has jurisdiction over this area. I understand the need for increased security, as St. John's is a working harbour, but I am wondering if other options have been considered? I am wondering how this issue is handled at other port cities. Halifax springs to mind as an example where the harbour is accessible to the public (and is a very enjoyable pedestrian destination), but security must also be addressed. Can we do something similar here in St. John's? We should aim to strike a balance between the working harbour on the one hand, and the harbourfront aesthetic and public enjoyment of the harbour on the other, as both add value to the City's character and economy. Regards, Sarah
December 7, 2012 05:20
Wow!! Now that the people actually know what is going on &/or are aware there is a fence issue, people are voicing their concerns loud and clear. The City has no decision-making power as it falls under federal jurisdiction. This is a St. John's Port Authority directive and they asked Council to cost-share, which was voted on and agreed unanimously and yes, me too! I now feel "Hoodwinked" and had to come out and say something before it's too late! The Port Authority has the authority, City does not. We were asked to cost-share. There are many opportunities to create a secure area, when necessary, balanced with a pedestrian friendly, accessible to the public design as well. There is so much potential opportunity for a wonderful space to live, work and enjoy ammenities. What is proposed is a permanent fence that yes, looks better then the chain link one now there, but what about the endless discussion about a functional yet secure harbour design? Years ago, local architect, Jim Case spearheaded a Harbour Charette (a design session on harbour models) with local designers, and architects proposing potential models for a livable harbourfront. We do not have to re-invent the wheel. there are examples of good marriages of working/pedestrian friendly harbourfronts all across the world. So, the bottom line is that the city has little, if no control, the St. John's Port Authority needs to hear from the public that this is not what we want and hopefully a balance between extra security and a publicly accessible one can be struck. Please let the St. John's Port Authority know your comments. Sean Hanrahan, President and CEO:
December 7, 2012 05:08
Unbelievable. Please tell me what evidence there is that we need this fence - how many "threats" of any kind have actually been made? Funny that other beautiful and far busier waterways remain unfenced e.g. the Thames, the Seine. I for one would prefer our harbour remained beautiful, visible and accessible and forego emulating the ugliness of becoming basically a sealed off container port.
December 7, 2012 04:24
This is an appalling proposal. The charm of walking past ships from around the world, all year round, connecting Nflders and visitors alike with the wild and wonderful sea. With the harbour, the Southside, the Narrows and the view of Cabot Tower. How many places can you do this? What about the unique tradition of ringing in the New Year, generations of revelers now attend with grandchildren. This is a lame-brained idea and must be stopped.
December 6, 2012 07:46
Glenn Rogers said...
I walk there all the time and it's one of the reasons I love St. John's. Locking it out sounds ludicrous and seems to have little point given pedestrians rarely get in anyone's way.
December 6, 2012 06:58
DBEER said...
happy city? get outta here. $900,000 huh? how about a skatepark facilty to accommodate us east enders that we've been asking for the past 15 years. SJ certianly knows how to blow a million on garbage
December 6, 2012 04:32
This is nothing but a crime. I visit the waterfront every day when I am home taking photos and so on, along with walk with the wife and kids. alot of people visit the waterfront to relax and take in the beauty. There is no need for such fence, this is no violence or violations along the port. Another thing the city had to be proud of gone. Please dont fence us out or in.
December 6, 2012 04:07
This is nothing but a crime. I visit the waterfront every day when I am home taking photos and so on, along with walk with the wife and kids. alot of people visit the waterfront to relax and take in the beauty. There is no need for such fence, this is no violence or violations along the port. Another thing the city had to be proud of gone. Please dont fence us out or in.
December 6, 2012 04:07
Brian Carey said...
Another way of stripping away the uniqueness that is downtown St John's. It's character and charm is disappearing and it's more and more looking like any other. St John's is one of the safest and perhaps secure (has anyone heard of any major incident in regard to our port security?) cities and a more practical means has to be found! Brian Carey
December 6, 2012 02:58
gerard neil said...
these comments look like the same ones I read against Muskrat Falls... please tell me when 20,000 people are ready to show up on the waterfront on a weekday and cram the downtown. a few well thought comments on a random website in newfoundland is not going to stop this from happening. Dec. 10 at 10am sounds good to me. 'let's occupy it and then they'll know we're serious. by the way, a handful of us won't work, so tell everyone you know and the media and everybody. "at !0 on the !0th to Thtop the Fenthe" I'll see you all there, looking for 20k+ turnout please. we're talking about a city that has allowed a PRIME tourist spot (the Battery Hotel) to become offices for a non-tax-paying entity. these people are not to be trusted with the fate of our harbour. "at !0 on the !0th to Thtop the Fenthe"
December 6, 2012 12:58
One of the things I have loved about our harbour was that so much of it was accessible, notwithstanding the salt piles, Harvey's Yard, the Port Authority, and the fenced area at the base of Signal Hill. Many good points have been made above. I will be sorry to have public access to the the waterfront cut off even more. Our harbour is too small to be all things to all people. Our streets are buckling under the weight of the huge trucks that service the industries already there. It will be sad to lose yet another part of our city's character without a public discussion.
December 6, 2012 12:26
Adam Lannon said...
Why is it that 11 years AFTER September 11, 2001 is this being purposed? Right away as a citizen of St. John's I feel this is an unjustified use of taxpayers money. Using the 911 event as leverage to this is just ridiculous, considering the harbor had no attention around it during and after the events. Why limit access when I myself have witnessed countless of tourists walking along the harbor taking pictures of the boats and the amazing view enjoying our unique harbor and view. The money could be used to design a better experience for both public and private use to the harbor, rather than a big cage. What about all the cruse ships that come to the harbor every year? That generates a lot of business for St. John's. What kind of idea would it send to these people coming to visit the city for the first time? Isn't the whole idea to improve downtown St. John's to make it MORE WELCOMING? This construction plan is creating the exact opposite idea of that. There needs to be a public discussion about this.
December 6, 2012 12:12
Jayme Power said...
I cannot believe that this is happening to my beautiful St. John's. This province is all about a culture of trust, peace and an open door policy. To put a fence around a main tourist area is metaphorically closing our doors and hiding in fear like American culture (no offense). This is not our beautiful province. This is not how we run our city.
December 6, 2012 11:17
Jacqui Janes said...
So disappointing to see and that the City of St. John's would be paying for any part of it. If this is to prevent terrorism that that is a federal government concern. If it has to do with the Cruise Industry that is a non issue since we don't have a cruise ship industry. 9 ships do not make a going concern or an industry!
December 6, 2012 10:33
Chris Butler said...
Not cool. Walking around dock and looking at the boats is one of my favorite things about this city.
December 6, 2012 10:26
Paul said...
We should all gather round city hall and sing this, or the Roy Rogers version, even. P
December 6, 2012 09:46
This proposal will play hell with the Tourism Trade: the main attraction for visitors to this City _is_ the Harbour ! What attraction will there be in coming to this city and having access to its most recognizable feature restricted by a view-despoiling fence? Why restrict this most important historical and cultural view at all ? Why not move sensitive shipping to the other side of the harbour , and fence in the South Side ..if you sincerely have to fence something in. ? Or better yet: why not construct a modern deep-water port outside the harbour, say in St. John's Bay ?
December 6, 2012 09:01
Kenneth H Young said...
Haven't they heard that Ottawa is cutting back on De-fence?
December 6, 2012 08:44
Kelly Davis said...
This absolutely requires more discussion!! It is a terrible proposal - one that would prevent residents and visitors from enjoying and experiencing our spectacular harbour and view. Having a working harbour and port downtown is a huge part of this city's appeal - do not fence it (and us!) in.
December 6, 2012 08:27
Keith power said...
This project is just legalized public defacing and is wrong! As For the fed governments false sense of security measures it is just a way to control access to the general public as Terrorist will find a way to do harm if that's what they want! But, they have already attacked and won because the attack was fear and its making! And, the government(s) monger on it to create more control over us! It remains obvious the people do not run the Government(s), the Government(s) Fuck and run us! The Fence should not go up and deface our waterfront! There is no reason for extremists to attack Newfoundland and its people!
December 6, 2012 08:22


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