‘It’s a start’

Fam­ily of moose ac­ci­dent vic­tim wel­comes ini­tia­tives

The Compass - - CIATHE S - BY BILL BOW­MAN The Com­pass

The fam­ily of a young man still cop­ing with the loss of their son in a moose-ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent 10 months ago is wel­com­ing new gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives aimed at re­duc­ing sim­i­lar tragedies.

Johnathon Neil was killed Sept. 15, 2010, when his ve­hi­cle struck a moose near the Trin­ity South end of New Har­bour Bar­rens.

The tragedy oc­curred on the eve of his 23rd birth­day.

“It’s a small start, but hope­fully it’s the start of some­thing big­ger,” said Nancy Neil, Johnathon’s mother. John Neil, Johnathon’s fa­ther, agreed. “It’s a fine start, but a very slow one,” he said July 7, the day af­ter the an­nounce­ment was made.

Seek­ing more de­tails

But John said he would like to see more de­tails on the pro­gram.

The prov­ince is plan­ning to spend $5 mil­lion on a se­ries of ini­tia­tives it hopes will cut down on the num­ber of moose-ve­hi­cle col­li­sions.

Trans­porta­tion and Works Min­is­ter Tom Hed­der­son said gov­ern­ment plans to spend $2.5 mil­lion to in­stall a 15-kilo­me­tre test sec- tion of fenc­ing.

That was one of the mea­sures John Neil was call­ing for when spoke to him and his wife at their South River home in May of this year.

But he won­ders, “is that 15 kilo­me­tres of fenc­ing go­ing to be all bro­ken up into shorter sec­tions, with so many kilo­me­tres per sec­tion? Will it be 7.5 kilo­me­tres on ei­ther side of the high­way or 15 on one side?”

The fenc­ing will in­clude boul­der­ing — place­ment of large rocks at the ends of the fence to de­ter moose from en­ter­ing the fenced road­way.

The prov­ince will also spend $600,000 on wildlife de­tec­tion sys­tems at sep­a­rate lo­ca­tions, us­ing sen­sor tech­nol­ogy and flash­ing lights to warn driv­ers.

Where the pilot projects will be set up will be de­ter­mined by a re­view of ex­ist­ing moo­seve­hi­cle col­li­sion data.

Go­ing high-tech

A new col­li­sion data man­age­ment sys­tem will help record mo­tor ve­hi­cle col­li­sion data, in­clud­ing moose ve­hi­cle col­li­sions, us­ing GPS (Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem.) It will pin­point the pre­cise lo­ca­tion of col­li­sions on the prov­ince’s high­ways. The sys­tem should pro­vide ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion needed to eval­u­ate the pilot projects.

While he agrees with the mea­sures be­ing taken, John Neil won­ders, “do we re­ally need the time it takes for a pilot pro­ject, when it seems like the fenc­ing, for ex­am­ple, has al­ready proven it­self to be ef­fec­tive in other prov­inces like New Brunswick?”

Ear­lier this year, the gov­ern­ment in­creased the num­ber of moose li­cences by 5,020, along with ex­tend­ing the hunt­ing sea­son by a week. That was in ad­di­tion to the three-week ex­ten­sion an­nounced in 2010.

The prov­ince also plans to add an­other $1 mil­lion to the $2 mil­lion it al­ready spends on cut­ting brush and treat­ing high­way rights-of-way.

John Neil would also like to see more street­light­ing on the TCH, es­pe­cially around in­ter­sec­tions like the one in Whit­bourne.

Neil also likes the idea of a moose cull. He said hun­ters would help keep the moose pop­u­la­tion down while fenc­ing would keep them off our high­ways. “ This may take years, but at least it’s a start,” he added.

En­cour­aged by last week’s an­nounce­ment, Neil likes to be­lieve gov­ern­ments do re­spond to pres­sure from groups like Save Our Peo­ple Ac­tion Com­mit­tee ( SOPAC), of which he and his wife are mem­bers.

The Neils are sus­pi­cious of the tim­ing of last week’s an­nounce­ment, which comes just three months be­fore this fall’s pro­vin­cial gen­eral elec­tion.

“ Now, all of a sud­den, it’s an is­sue — I won­der how come it wasn’t an is­sue for the last 20 or 30 years?” he said.

Mean­while, Joyce Neil con­cludes, “ if this pro­gram pre­vents some­one else from hav­ing to go through what we have gone through, it will be a good thing.”

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