Care for bunkers or tear them down: war historian

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Suggests structures should be dismantled if Parks Canada fails to take action

The bunkers at the foot of the North Head trail leading to Signal Hill, used to store artillery to protect the harbour during the Second World War, have been vandalized with graffiti. —  Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

A war historian says bunkers located near the Lower Battery trail leading to the Signal Hill National Historic Site should be torn down if Parks Canada fails to deal with the effects of vandalism.

“Most people go through the Lower Battery, which is a very picturesque neighbourhood, and then the first thing they see when they get on the trail are these three eyesores,” said Paul Collins.

“Parks Canada should either do something with them or tear them down.”

Collins, a historian whose doctoral thesis focused on the history of St. John’s as a naval base during the Second World War, went on a recent hike through the area to take advantage of nice weather.

“When I went by (last Friday), I just noticed how bad they looked. Here they are at the start of this ... very popular trail, and they’re eyesores.”

Graffiti covers the bunkers inside and out. Collins said the present state of the bunkers detracts from the beauty of the trail and the area’s historic significance. Likewise, Collins contends the condition of the bunkers does not reflect well on Parks Canada, St. John’s, the province, or Canada as a whole.

According to Collins, the bunkers housed artillery pieces used to protect St. John’s harbour during the Second World War.

“As a historian, I think it’s a shame that these haven’t been preserved,” he said. “Certainly, Fort Amherst (on the south side of St. John’s) has not been preserved.”

In an email to The Telegram, a Parks Canada spokesman said vandalism and graffiti have been an ongoing concern in relation to the bunkers and other local attractions the agency is responsible for, making reference to the Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site.

“Through preventive and restorative measures, as well as raising public awareness, Parks Canada’s goal is to limit the incidences and impact of vandalism on the cultural resources under our care,” it said.

Parks Canada staff are in the process of remediating damage to the bunkers, according to the statement.

 

Other countries

Collins said countries such as France and Belgium place plaques at the site of most abandoned bunkers to offer a historical perspective on their significance to war efforts.

“Here we have two very historic fortifications from the Second World War, and they’re just been allowed to deteriorate into an eyesore.”

While he believes the bunkers are too far gone to commemorate their historic significance given how much the structures have deteriorated over the years, Collins suggests a fresh coat of paint could “go a long way.”

The bunkers are also a safety hazard in his view given they are not maintained and have been slowly falling apart for decades. He said doors should be locked to prevent people from entering them. He suspects some people use them as urinals.

“You get somebody who goes in there and something happens, there’s a whole liability issue. So I’m really surprised that the doors aren’t bolted shut. If the bunkers are abandoned and unused, then the doors should be locked to prevent anybody from going in.”

Following his walk last week, Collins wrote an email and sent it to various government departments, including Parks Canada and federal Heritage Minister Shelly Glover. He did receive a note from Parks Canada acknowledging that his correspondence had been received and would be forwarded to the proper authorities.

 

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Parks Canada, Signal Hill National Historic Site, Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site

Geographic location: Canada, France, Belgium

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Recent comments

  • seanoairborne
    July 30, 2013 - 11:41

    They're just freekin bunkers folks,not monuments.I was based in Europe with the US Army after Vietnam and there are plenty of old German bunkers scattered throughout France,with Grafitti!And they don't paint em and they're all in various states of ruin.It's a lie that they look after all the old WW11 bunkers in Europe.Been there, seen it!!

  • Mark
    July 30, 2013 - 11:36

    That's a great idea, Edmund. I once had a summer job, picking garbage out of the roadside ditches in this province. After working to clean them, I wouldn't dream of throwing litter in them.

  • Edmund
    July 30, 2013 - 11:01

    The RNC just arrested a group who are putting all this graffiti around the NE Avalon. Chances are they did this too. Why not have them, as part of their sentence, paint the bunkers and any other areas around the NE Avalon that they messed up with their spray paint cans. Surely if they can paint graffiti they can paint a wall with a gallon of paint and a brush. It will do 2 things: Clean up our public places and hopefully make them and others reconsider what damage they are doing to our beautiful province and historical monuments.

  • Mark
    July 30, 2013 - 10:39

    I couldn't agree with this historian, Collins, more. It is absolutely shameful that Newfoundland has such a rich military history, and we let Fort Amherst and other sites be used by graffitti-spraying vandals and drinking teenagers. Willy is completely correct when he says that if these sites were in Quebec, they would be preserved. I'll give credit where it is due. Quebecers do a great job of recognizing and respecting their history.

  • david
    July 30, 2013 - 09:41

    Just leave them be. Unless you found some new, undisclosed pot of government money that hasn't yet been pre-spent like all the rest: on something else we don't need at the expense of providing some service or thing that we do.

  • Jeff
    July 30, 2013 - 07:34

    Isn't this what we do in Newfoundland: complain about things rusting away while they rust away? I know, let's restore it's dignity and majesty by hanging a Detroit Redwings banner on it! (It worked for the Kyle)

  • Agree
    July 30, 2013 - 07:27

    If they are in bad shape, close them up. A few cans of paint and a few hours wil make it look it presentable. Somebody knows who is doing the grafitti. They buy the paint somewhere. The city is disgusting. Grafitti is everywhere.

  • willy
    July 30, 2013 - 07:02

    If these bunkers were situated anywhere in Quebec, they would be restored decades ago. Just saying.