Gros Morne – World Heiritage Site in jeopardy

gros morne newfoundlandgros morne nfld
Fracking proposal divides residents near Gros Morne

UNESCO recently expressed concern about proximity to World Heritage Site

CBC News

Posted: Jul 30, 2013 5:30 AM NT

Last Updated: Jul 30, 2013 11:30 AM NT

The search for oil off Newfoundland’s west coast has divided people who live near the World Heritage Site that is a major draw to the region.

UNESCO recently announced it was concerned about plans to use hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — close to Gros Morne National Park.
Fracking may jeopardize Gros Morne UNESCO status

Sue Rendell, one of the pioneers of the local tourism industry, is against the fracking plan.

“I think it would industrialize it, and the biggest reason people come here is it is a protected area,” Rendell said.
Rocky Harbour, NLGros Morne National Park (in green)
“It’s known for its natural beauty worldwide.”

Rendell set up her kayak and outfitting business in the 1990s, after UNESCO gave the park its global designation.

The number of annual visitors since then has steadily grown to about 120,000.

“Where we’re trying to compete internationally to bring people here to the west coast of Newfoundland, something like fracking, even the perception of it, may change people’s decision to come here,” Rendell said.

‘Opportunity comes knocking’

But not everyone dismisses the proposal outright.

Walter Nicolle is the mayor of Rocky Harbour, one of the towns skirted by the boundaries of Gros Morne.

“When opportunity comes knocking on your door like that, you definitely [have] to stop and think about it,” Nicolle said.

‘When opportunity comes knocking on your door like that, you definitely [have] to stop and think about it.’—Rocky Harbour Mayor Walter Nicolle

Like other communities in the area, tourism has all but replaced the fishing industry.

Yet Nicolle says many residents are still open to oil exploration, because tourism is just not enough to stop the exodus of young people.

“It’s only two or three months a year, so if there was some economic development to stabilize our communities, it would keep people here longer or even permanently,” Nicolle said.

But at least one nearby resident says she’s heard it before.

Kathy Lepold-Madigan divides her time between western Newfoundland and Pennsylvania.

Her home state welcomed shale gas exploration in rural areas where unemployment rivals the rate in Newfoundland.

But Lepold-Madigan says jobs and economic development were short-lived.

“Unskilled people were hired as flagmen and that type of thing,” she said.

“They were offered very good salaries for that; they left their low-paying jobs to do that. And after six months they were done drilling and they all moved out. And people were without jobs, because their previous jobs were taken by somebody else.”

‘You have a really beautiful park there’

Tourist Louis Tremblay pulls his kayak out of a small lake in Gros Morne, in the shadow of a dark orange mountain range formed from the Earth’s mantle millions of years ago.
Tourist Louis Tremblay from Quebec says he was struck by the beauty of Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland. Tourist Louis Tremblay from Quebec says he was struck by the beauty of Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland. (CBC)
The rare Martian-looking landscape is one of the reasons the park was recognized by UNESCO.

“You have a really beautiful park there,” Tremblay said. “It’s really nice.”

This is Tremblay’s first visit to Gros Morne.

He’s from Quebec, where there’s a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

About 50 kilometres down the coast from this small lake, there’s a proposal to frack for oil.

Tremblay says he hopes it never happens.

“Can you imagine a sight like this and a see a tower pumping gas? It’s marvelous, this sight.”

Plans have been controversial

The plan to use hydraulic fracturing up and down the west coast of Newfoundland has been controversial.

One site is just a couple hundred metres from the park boundary and a highway used by travellers.

‘We have a beautiful place here and we could destroy it very, very quickly.’—Sue Rendell, tourism operator

Even though the oil exploration is subject to two environmental reviews, the former federal environment commissioner has warned about the lack of regulations specific to fracking.

Rendell says the stakes are too high to take any chances.

“We have a beautiful place here and we could destroy it very, very quickly,” she said.

For that reason, UNESCO wants to take a look at the environmental reviews before any drilling takes place.

The UN organization says Gros Morne’s World Heritage Site status is not at risk — at least not for now.
Gros Morne National Park

Gros Morne National Park
Photo by Rolf Hicker:
Newfoundland Pictures
The Gros Morne National Park has been designated a WHS because of its role in evolutionary history and its scenic quality. Here the continental margin of North America was effected by tectonic plate movements. Unique features like mantle and crust sequences, the presence of xonotlite, and the best known collection of graptolites in the world can be seen.

The park is located at the west coast of Newfoundland, and is named after Newfoundland’s second-highest mountain peak (at 2,644 ft/806 m) located within the park. The landscape holds many rock formations, fjords and waterfalls.

Year Decision Comments
1987 Inscribed Reasons for inscription

What a park! I grew up in Ontario and visited Algonquin Park frequently. Let me tell you Algonquin has nothing on Gros Morne. Spectacular views from Woody Point and every corner had another breathtaking scene. Just watch out for the moose and caribou, they are everywhere. Words don’t do this place justice.

Mary Frickey ():
I just return to Kansas form three weeks in Newfoundland. The are near Gros Morne is unbelievable. I am still in ah of it. It took my breath away.
It was unbelivabel that the view around each corner was differen and more beautiful than the one before. I tried to take as many photoes as I could but they are not the same as the area.
I also fell in love with a local dish partridge berries. I had pie, jam and spreads. All were great.
Kasas was hard to return to.
Date posted: September 2006
Rolf Hicker (Canada):
As a travel photographer I have seen lots of National Parks, but Gros Morne National Park is still one of my favourites. Western Brook Pond is spectactular as well as the Tablelands. I have put a page together of Images from the Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland which you may see here:
Date posted: September 2006
Emilia Bautista King (U.S.A.):
You cannot appreciate how massive this place is until you’ve been there. I had a wonderful dinner at the quaint Seaside Restaurant (best partridgeberry pie) and tried to call Rocky Harbour within the park for my next night’s accommodations, only to realize that it was long distance! The campgrounds are well-kept. Seeing a moose for the first time at Rocky Harbour was unforgettable!
Date posted: February 2006
Esther (The Netherlands):
Gros Morne National Park was fantastic! Beautiful trail on Partridge Berry Hill, great view. I love the lakes, the mountains, the mooses and the people of Newfoundland. I want to come back there for sure.
Date posted: July 2005
Sheila Ross (Canada):
This glorious site needs a photo to accompany these well-earned rave reviews. I agree that the highlights are Western Brook Pond (as photographed – the boat tour is a must) and the Tablelands, where the rocks of the exposed mantle render the soil inhospitable to plants. The contrast between the barren, gold-hued hills of the Tablelands and the heavily-treed cliffs of the rest of the park is really quite startling.

The West coast of Newfoundland is still quite undiscovered and has lots of affordable accommodation, and camping is a worthwhile option as well. The park is huge – prepare to spend a few days at least, and to be driving a fair amount. We found Rocky Harbour to be the ideal base, right in the middle and quite scenic in its own right. While you’re in the area I highly recommend taking a trip up to L’Anse Aux Meadows and stopping at Arches Provincial Park and the Port-au-Choix site as well.

Jonathan (Canada):
Absolutely gorgeous, one of the greatest wildernesses I’ve seen in Canada (I still have get to Nunavut). The Mountain itself is a pretty strenuous hike, but its well worth the climb for the views you get. Every trail, actually, is beautiful and different. I will return, that is sure.

Kelly K. Henry (USA):
Just visited in May, 2004. More moose than humans. Breathtaking waterfalls and lakes and stunning snow topped mountains. Rocky Harbor has some good hotels all with spectacular sunsets. Don’t miss the Western Brook Pond trip and a hike among the rocks from the earth’s mantle.

lelia (canada):
the south side of Bonne bay is beautiful the table lands mountains have to be seen up close. there are great hiking trails. a nice easy trip goes up partridge berry hill behind the discovery center. oh yeah the discovery center is wonderful. what a breath taking sight from the top of partridgeberry hill. Come to the south side of Bonne Bay it is worth the trip

Jennifer (USA):
Too true, do not go to this spectacular park or you will suffer the same fate as I! Gros Morne has broken my heart. I cried as I left and now find the landscape of my home ridiculously disappointing and bland. My only wish is to return to NFLD to see the fjord once more, but I think that now I am doomed to return again and again. One more time will not be enough, and I was there in May, not summer at all!

Dave (USA):
This place is hideously disappointing and unattractive. Please don’t tell anybody else about it. It would be a shame if the secret got out about the breathtaking fjords, tundra, and coastal lowlands. Please, don’t tell anybody about this park. I don’t want it to become crowded when I visit there every year from 1700 miles away.

Have you been to Gros Morne National Park? Share your experiences!

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