Browned off in Browns­dale

Cou­ple raises con­cerns about lo­cal roads


Mar­lene Clarke gazes out her kitchen win­dow at the waves rolling in on the beach in Browns­dale Cove. It’s a pic­turesque scene she en­joys just as much to­day as she did when she moved to the Trinity Bay com­mu­nity more than 20 years ago with her hus­band, War­ren, and their daugh­ter, Heidi.

There’s a healthy breeze blow­ing in off the water, lightly bend­ing the conif­er­ous tree just out­side the win­dow, which re­peat­edly tugs on the old fire hose used to keep the tree from blow­ing over in a storm.

This is ob­vi­ously a very in­hos­pitable place in the win­ter months, and lo­cals like Mar­lene and War­ren un­der­stand and re­spect that fact. It’s part of the al­lure that drew them here in the first place, they say.

But Mar­lene is not quite as con­tent these days, largely be­cause of her grow­ing con­cerns with the con­di­tion and main­te­nance of lo­cal roads in the com­mu­nity.

Health is­sues

At 68 years-of-age, she is not as mo­bile as she used to be, and doc­tors tell her she needs a hip re­place­ment. Prob­lem is, she’s not able to see a spe­cial­ist un­til next spring. But that’s not her only con­cern. Her 81-year-old hus­band suf­fered a se­vere ab­dom­i­nal aor­tic aneurysm about 15 years ago, and pulled through de­spite pre­dic­tions from his doc­tors that he would not. Mar­lene made sure of that, con­stantly talk­ing to her hus­band and play­ing him mu­sic for the six weeks he was in a coma.

But War­ren hasn’t been the same. He’s un­able to get around on his own, and re­quires up to 35 hours of home­care each week.

They live to­gether in a small house on March’s Road, about 100 me­tres off the Trinity South high­way (Route 80). March’s is a dirt road with about six or seven other homes, though some ap­pear to be un­oc­cu­pied.

They can of­ten look out their win­dows and see thrill-seek­ing surfers rid­ing the waves, and tourists flock to this tiny com­mu­nity of about 60 homes be­cause of its rugged beauty.

In Septem­ber 2010, the area was hit hard by Hur­ri­cane Igor, and the bridge that con­nects March’s Road with Church Road and Bank Road, and Route 80, sus­tained se­ri­ous struc­tural dam­age, and has been closed ever since. And the road that runs along the beach known lo­cally as “ The Bot­tom,” which con­nects with Matthews Road and Route 80, was also dam­aged. It’s barely pass­able these days.

As a re­sult, the only ac­cess road to the Clarke res­i­dence is via March’s Road.

‘Quite an is­sue’

Un­der those cir­cum­stances, the Clarke’s felt the road would get some ex­tra at­ten­tion from snow­clear­ing crews last win­ter. But that wasn’t the case, said Mar­lene, and with an­other win­ter just around the hori­zon, she’s grow­ing in­creas­ingly wor­ried.

“ We had to keep phon­ing for road main­te­nance,” Mar­lene stated dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view.

Mar­lene said there were times when the two home-care work­ers as­signed to them were un­able to reach their home be­cause the road was ei­ther un­cleared or too slip­pery.

“It’s been quite an is­sue for us,” Mar­lene said, adding that she de­pends very much on the help they get from the home-care work­ers.

She prefers to avoid March’s Road be­cause it in­ter­sects with Route 80 at the top of a hill, and it’s dif­fi­cult to see on­com­ing traf­fic.

“ The big trucks just fly through there. You re­ally have to gun it,” Mar­lene said.

Some area res­i­dents started grum­bling about the sit­u­a­tion last month, and brought their con­cerns to Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Char­lene John­son, who is seek­ing re-elec­tion in the Oct. 11 provin­cial gen­eral elec­tion.

It’s been more than a year since Igor, and some res­i­dents feel the in­fra­struc­ture re­pairs should have been com­pleted by now.

The provin­cial govern­ment an­nounced in late Au­gust that it was seek­ing bids for the re­place­ment of the Browns­dale bridge, and Trans­porta­tion and Works crews were in the com­mu­nity last week, dis­man­tling parts of the struc­ture in prepa­ra­tion for the re­pair work.

But just days af­ter Browns­dale res­i­dents started com­plain­ing about the sit­u­a­tion, govern­ment em­ploy­ees erected sev­eral signs at the en­trance to “ The Bot­tom,” ad­vis­ing mo­torists that the road is not main­tained and to “use at own risk.”

Mar­lene said many res­i­dents were rat­tled by this.

“I know they can’t work mir­a­cles, but I think we can be looked af­ter a lit­tle bet­ter when it comes to the roads,” Mar­lene said.

No an­swers from depart­ment

The Com­pass spoke with an of­fi­cial with Trans­porta­tion and Works last week, and pro­vided a list of ques­tions on the sit­u­a­tion in Browns­dale, in­clud­ing an es­ti­mate on when the new bridge would be com­pleted. But there was no re­sponse from the depart­ment prior to dead­line.

John­son, mean­while, ad­dressed the sit­u­a­tion dur­ing an in­ter­view in Old Per­li­can on Thurs­day, Sept. 29.

She said the signs lead­ing to “ The Bot­tom” were erected be­cause the prov­ince no longer main­tains the road, and there were li­a­bil­ity con­cerns.

De­spite this, she said the prov­ince will re­place a cul­vert on the road that was washed out dur­ing Igor.

“ We won’t main­tain it, but be­cause it was Igor dam­age, they can re­place it,” she said.

John­son said a ten­der has been awarded for the bridge project, though she did not say when it might be com­pleted.

John­son said she has re­ceived com­plaints about the roads, but pointed out the district is very large and there are only so many re­sources.

“ You have to do the main roads first,” she com­mented.

Mar­lene said some res­i­dents are up­set, and may show their dis­plea­sure at the bal­lot box.

“Peo­ple are blam­ing the govern­ment, and no­body knows who to vote for,” Mar­lene said, added promptly, “(Char­lene) has been an ex­cel­lent MHA.”

War­ren and Mar­lene Clarke have lived in the Trinity Bay com­mu­nity of Browns­dale for more than 20 years.

A new sign warn­ing mo­torists that a lo­cal road in Browns­dale known as “ The Bot­tom” is no longer main­tained by the prov­ince was erected re­cently. Mo­torists who use the road do so at their own risk.

Crews with Trans­porta­tion and Works were dis­man­tling a bridge in Browns­dale last week that was dam­aged dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Igor in Septem­ber 2010.

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