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New fence on Signal Hill to be removed following uproar

New fence at Signal Hill blocks view, causes controversy
WATCH: New fence at Signal Hill blocks view, causes controversy

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that Seamus O’Regan is veterans’ affairs minister, his former title. He is the minister of Indigenous services.

Parks Canada says a brand new fence built on scenic Signal Hill will soon be removed after it was criticized for blocking views of St. John’s, N.L.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who oversees the agency, said she’s heard “loud and clear” that the design and placement of the fence at the national historic site “missed the mark.”

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“We will make sure that any measures we take to improve safety at Signal Hill and provide a better visitor experience during performances also preserve the spectacular view and are consistent with the character of the site,” she said in a statement Wednesday.

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The fence is located next to the Signal Hill Visitor Centre, about halfway up the hill. Wider views of the city — as well as the Atlantic Ocean — can still be seen from on top of the rugged cliffs.

Despite that, the barrier has sparked an uproar on social media.

“Parks Canada have built a fence designed to block the view,” comedian Rick Mercer said on Twitter Tuesday.

“Welcome to N.L.,” he quipped. “Nothing to see here.”

Nick Whalen, St. John’s Liberal MP, called for the “travesty of a fence” to be removed.

“We have a beautiful interpretation centre built in the same architectural standard as the other elements of the park, and then we have this fence,” he said. “It blocks the views, and there’s some stated safety concerns, but it’s just simply not in keeping with the concerns of the public and no proper consultation was done.”

He said he reached out to Seamus O’Regan, the MP responsible for the area, and McKenna to express his concerns.

The area near the Signal Hill Visitor Centre in May 2018, before a controversial fence was built, as shown on Google Street View.
The area near the Signal Hill Visitor Centre in May 2018, before a controversial fence was built, as shown on Google Street View. Google Street view

Parks Canada said the fence was built to improve safety for visitors, as well as those performing in events taking place nearby such as the Signal Hill Tattoo.

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The existing fence will be replaced with a temporary barrier that will be set up only during performances, the agency said.

“This approach will help keep visitors safe and avoid traffic issues while preserving the view,” the agency said in a statement.

Signal Hill, one of the city’s best-known landmarks, is a scenic hiking destination home to Cabot Tower. It’s also where Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901.

“People across the country might not appreciate how emotionally connected Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and certainly St. John’s townies are, to their view of the harbour,” Whalen explained.

McKenna said the fence will be taken down by the end of the week.

With files from Tristram Clark and Ross Lord