Environment and Conservation
Tourism, Culture and Recreation
February 18, 2008

Update Provided on T�Railway Provincial Park Structures

The inspections of the T�Railway Provincial Park structures began over the weekend, the Honourable Charlene Johnson, Minister of Environment and Conservation, announced today. On February 14, 2008, all structures, including trestles and bridges, along the T�Railway Provincial Park, from St. John�s to Port aux Basques, were closed to all pedestrian, ATV, snowmobile, and vehicular traffic, following a report from Transport Canada.

"We assembled teams of engineers/technicians, conservation officers, and parks personnel over the weekend and began conducting inspections on Sunday to determine which structures are safe for public use and which can potentially be re-opened. We had six inspection teams on the T�Railway on Sunday, working in the Avalon, Central and Western regions. There will be an additional 13 inspection teams on the T�Railway as of today. As their reports become available, we will provide the public with updates and begin re-opening any structures deemed safe," said Minister Johnson. "We will continue with our inspections in a prudent and timely manner, taking into account travel time to the more remote locations, as well as weather conditions."

The minister also said that priority structures have been identified, in conjunction with the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation and the Newfoundland T�Railway Council, and they will be inspected over the next couple of days. The Exploits and Gander bridges are scheduled for an engineering assessment today. Furthermore, barricades and warning signs are being erected along the 18 structures identified in the Transport Canada letter as potential public safety risks.

Under the authority of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, Transport Canada identified 14 structures that posed an unreasonable life safety risk to the public. It also identified four structures along non-navigable waterways with which it had serious concerns. Transport Canada also stated their list of non-navigable waterway structures was not a complete list, and that many other structures showed signs of deterioration and should be examined for life safety issues.

Therefore, the Department of Environment and Conservation, in a precautionary move, closed all structures until an engineering analysis of all bridges and trestles was completed.

"We understand the inconvenience of the closure of these structures; however, public safety has to be our number one priority," said Minister Johnson.

The Honourable Clyde Jackman, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, said the Provincial Government recognizes the impact the closure of the T�Railway structures is having on snowmobilers and tourism operators.   "This is an issue of great concern to many of our tourism operators," Minister Jackman said. "Snowmobiling is a popular activity � particularly among our resident population � and when snowmobilers choose to avail of overnight accommodations, it helps businesses extend the traditional tourism season into the winter months.

"This government has been particularly proactive in encouraging winter activities which are designed to make tourism a year-round industry," Minister Jackman added. "We are therefore actively working with relevant government departments and stakeholder groups to find resolutions so that any negative effects will be minimized."

Regular updates will be provided to the public as the various T�Railway structures are examined and, where possible, reopened for use.

The T�Railway Provincial Park was proclaimed on July 10, 1997. The Department of Environment and Conservation has an MOU with the Newfoundland T�Railway Council to share responsibility for T�Railway development, and $190,000 in funding is allocated for the council on an annual basis. Last year, the Provincial Government, through the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development (INTRD), contributed $556, 875 toward a three-year project for redecking and construction of handrails for structures along the T�Railway.


Media contacts:

Melony O�Neill
Director of Communications (Acting)
Department of Environment and Conservation
709-729-2575; 689-0928
Heather May
Director of Communications
Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation
709-729-0928; 697-5061

2008 02 18                                                     10:55 a.m.

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