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.
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.