Letter to the Editor -
I want to comment on the issue of the so-called gravel pit parking and camping. There is no justification for the heartless unbelievable action that the Williams Government, spearheaded by the Minister of Environment, is taking against the ordinary people of this province. Make no mistake the pressure for this action is coming by way of a lobby from private business interests, most likely supported by anyone who has anything to do with tourism in this province.
There is, and always has been a mindset in the Department of Environment and Tourism to close down gravel pit camping in Newfoundland and Labrador. Every time the government changes, or when ministers change, certain civil servants in the Department of Environment and Tourism try to convince the new minister to outlaw and cause to be closed all the so called gravel pit sites in Newfoundland and Labrador. Well, this time they have apparently succeeded.
I personally ran into this attitude many times between 1975-1999. Thankfully, every time this issue came up, the government listened to the argument against such action and, in the end, decided to respect the feelings and wishes of the people involved. But not this time. Minister Johnson buoyed up by the personal and political popularity of Premier Williams, obviously got his backing, and believing they can do what they liked regardless of how many people are hurt, decided to ban so called gravel pit camping and dictated that the sites must be abandoned immediately.
No consideration for people who spent the past 20 or 30 years back and forth to their campsite, who may have put their meager savings into these campsites.
No consideration for people who saw their children enjoy, over many summers, their campsites with their friends, and who over the years developed life long relationships.
No consideration or sympathy for the people who can't afford to do anything else. Many of these campers couldn't afford to do anything else when they established their campsites in the first place. They surely can't afford the rates that are charged in the private parks or the few provincial parks that are left.
No consideration or compassion for those who are now senior citizens, who cherished their campsites over the years and looked forward to the relaxation and enjoyment it would provide in their later years.
Mr. Editor, I'm not a gravel pit camper, probably never will be, but I've visited a lot of these sites over the years, and I was always impressed with the sense of family and fellowship that I found there.
Now sir, we know the hurt and heartache that's been caused by the callous, dictatorial action taken by this government. But who benefits? Does any Newfoundlander or Labradorian want the land that these sites are on? No! Are any of these sites obstructing construction or development? No!
As far as eyesores are concerned: Can you drive by most of those sites and never see them? Yes! Do most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, who are not gravel pit campers, want these sites closed and the occupants kicked out? No!
I hear people who supported this action talk about 45 gallon drums used as septic tanks to support their argument. But what about the thousands of homes along our beautiful coastline sending their untreated raw sewage right into the bays and coves along our coast? That's alright if it suits your purpose and it obviously suits the purpose of this government. As far as garbage is concerned, there are areas in some of our towns and cities where as much garbage is present as in any of the gravel pits or campsites that I've visited.
Mr. Editor, this issue is not as high profile or glamorous as offshore oil, or Churchill Falls, or Voisey Bay, but it is near and dear to the hearts of thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. For the occupants of these areas, it is probably right now the most tormenting and aggravating thing in their lives. It is grossly unfair for a government to put people in this position. These are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have worked hard and contributed to their communities and province all their lives.
Premier Williams and his government should rethink their position on this. They should work with the occupants of these so-called gravel pits and campsites and try to work out the problems the government finds unacceptable. These people should not be given 60 days to move. They have nowhere to go. Some have no means of moving their trailer and with the identified problems worked out they are hurting no one. Let them stay!