‘It’s a start’
Family of moose accident victim welcomes initiatives
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.
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.”