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Norman Bay residents worried they’ll lose ferry service

Norman Bay, Labrador.
Norman Bay, Labrador. - Submitted

Secluded Labrador town has typically been accessed by boat in summer

NORMAN BAY, NL – A secluded town on the southeast Labrador coast is hoping they won’t see their transportation cut back.

Norman Bay is a small town of just 19 residents, north of Charlottetown.

While it is not located on an island, there is no road to connect the community to the Trans-Labrador Highway.

In the winter, it is mainly accessible by snowmobile. In the summer, the MV Marine Eagle, a 12-passenger ferry service, ran from Charlottetown to the community.

It would typically run for about 23 weeks, starting in late June or early July. Through May and June, they run a helicopter.

The ferry also serviced the now resettled town of William’s Harbour.

It was operated by Puddister Trading Company LTD.

But, in April, residents say they were informed the ferry service would no longer be in place starting this summer.

Lorina Spurrell, chairperson of the Norman Bay Recreation Committee, said losing the ferry would be a “big blow.”

In place of the ferry service, Spurrell said the provincial government has proposed a helicopter service.

She adds there have been some discussion whether it would run once or twice a week and they may also use a longliner for heavier freight.

If there’s a once a week service, Spurrell says Norman Bay would receive mail less frequently, residents travelling to the local clinic and convenience store in Charlottetown will have to be away for a week at a time, and workers who travel seasonally for work would be stuck away from home for longer stretches as well.

“This is a major service for us, even twice a week we were able to get our mail, our freight, passengers up and down to get to the (Charlottetown) clinic,” she said.

Ovadious Morris, treasurer of the Norman Bay Recreation Committee, thinks removing the ferry would be “absolutely ridiculous.”

“Once a week is not much for getting your mail in and going for clinic appointments and for anything,” she said. “We depend on Charlottetown for everything: plane service, clinic, groceries, mail.

“Just because we’re 19 people doesn’t mean we don’t deserve what everybody else is getting.”

Spurrell also says it would be more difficult to bring in materials for different projects they have in the works.

For instance, they’ve recently received approval from the NunatuKavut Community Council for a grant to build a community storage shed.

It will be more difficult to bring in the construction material.

The town will also need a helicopter pad. The current landing place, the wharf, will not suffice as the helicopter can only land when the wind is a certain direction.

“The longliner may be equipped to bring in that stuff but we have other plans as well, and we need equipment and I don’t know how they’re planning to get that in with a longliner,” said Spurrell.

Selina Morris is originally from Norman Bay and still has many family members in the town.

She took to Facebook to voice her concerns about their situation.

“As a former resident of Norman Bay, I am concerned for my family there and can’t help but wonder ‘what next?-What other vital services will they be deprived of?’” her Facebook post reads.

Morris told the Northern Pen she frequently travels back there to see her family.

“If I did want to go back, I would have to stay for an entire week, which is crazy because not everybody is going to have a week off work,” she said. “Not only that, if they have to travel to St. Anthony for the hospital, they would stuck in St. Anthony or Charlottetown for one week before they can get back home.”

She says her grandmother has to get bloodwork done twice a week in Charlottetown. With the ferry on twice a week, she’s able to travel for each of her appointments.

But with a helicopter travelling once a week, she won’t be able to go back home.

“It’s just very frustrating,” added Morris.

Spurrell says she understands why the provincial government would decide to look at other options, with fewer people having to use the service since the resettlement of William’s Harbour.

“I completely understand that given the fiscal difficulties we’re facing, they had to look at every option and still try to provide service to us,” she said.

She adds that she just hopes they consider all options before making a quick decision about the ferry.

The Department of Transportation and Works released a statement to the Northern Pen.

“The department is always looking at ways to provide efficient services that meet the needs of residents and is also responsible to all taxpayers,” it read. “Any changes to the ferry services for people of Norman Bay will be discussed with the residents first.”

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