Chapel's Cove beach is finally reopened, but resident says town is ill-prepared for next storm

·3 min read
Chapel's Cove beach was covered in large rocks and debris for more than a year-and-a-half after a pre-pandemic storm surge devastated the coastline. (Emma Grunwald/CBC - image credit)
Chapel's Cove beach was covered in large rocks and debris for more than a year-and-a-half after a pre-pandemic storm surge devastated the coastline. (Emma Grunwald/CBC - image credit)
Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

Chapel's Cove beach in Conception Bay is once again open to the public after more than a year and a half of clean-up and repairs, but some in the area say they're concerned the beach could still be vulnerable to future storms.

The picturesque site popular for fishing and bonfires was closed in January 2020 after a storm surge during the historic Snowmaggedon blizzard overwhelmed its seawall, washing out a nearby road and reducing the rocky beach to rubble and debris.

Mike Doyle, mayor of Harbour Main-Chapel's Cove-Lakeview, is thrilled to be able to welcome the world back to Chapel's Cove beach, which he sees as a centrepiece of the community.

"This is what encourages people to build here," he said of the roughly 100 metre-long beach that separates Point Road in Chapel's Cove from a small enclave of homes on the eastern edge of the beach.

Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

"When it turned into a rocky, destroyed shore, who wants to live there? Who wants to live beside that? Who wants to build there?"

Maintenance over mitigation

Doyle said the town pushed for enough funding to mitigate future disasters in the wake of the storm, which strewed large boulders across the beach, clawed away at the coastline on Point Road and tore through newly-installed water and sewer pipes.

A new breakwater was estimated at just under a million dollars, Doyle said, an amount roughly equal to town's entire annual budget.

Because emergency relief funding from the federal government only covered repairs and not mitigation, the mayor said the town focused on the most pressing priority: rebuilding the road that abuts the beach — a road half a dozen residents depend on to get to and from their homes.

"We could not get emergency services to them because of the massive amount of ocean rock that had come onto this beach," Doyle said.

The emergency grant of about $100,000 was enough to cover the costs of clearing the road and rebuilding the seawall on the east side of the beach.

But Doyle said the real concern lies on the beach's western border on Point Road, where most Chapel Cove residents live and where the coastline is slowly receding out to sea.

'This is not going to go away'

But as the beach reopens, not all residents say their concerns have been eased.

"This storm happened some time ago, and yet the repairs have yet to have been made," said Margo Davis, a seasonal resident of Chapel's Cove who spends most of the year in Toronto.

"That causes us some worry and concern for our neighbours and good friends here."

Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

Davis says water that once funnelled underground has since been spilling into the road outside her home, as the culvert that normally carried it to sea was displaced during the storm.

Heading into the fall, and the second half of hurricane season according to the Canadian Hurricane Centre, she said she feels the town is ill-prepared for future surges.

We're just really happy that we got our beach back. - Mike Doyle

"This is not going to go away — it's only going to get worse as the planet heats up," she said. "We need structures built here to stop the water from coming up across the road."

Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

Doyle said repairing the underground infrastructure remains the town's priority, an issue he says the area's MHA, Helen Conway Ottenheimer, has spoken about to Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Elvis Loveless.

But until then, he will be revelling in the newly beautified beach at Chapel's Cove.

"We're just really happy that we got our beach back," he said.

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