Tour guide wants bus mustering lot better maintained
© — Star file photo
Security team member Blaine Gillam, left, answers questions from a cruise ship passenger before they board the shuttle bus in this file photo, which shows the unpaved parking lot used to muster buses for onshore excursions.
CORNER BROOK The next time George Spracklin works as a tour guide for a cruise ship visit in Corner Brook, he would like nothing more than the area where visitors board buses to be paved.
He won’t hold his breath waiting, but feels it’s something that should be done if the city wants to put its best foot forward when welcoming these tourists.
“I’ve been doing this for years and, each and every time, we say it’s crazy and ridiculous,” said Spracklin, one of a host of local people who help give tours when ships are in town.
Spracklin worked the first vessel to visit Corner Brook this year, the Oceania Marina, which came into port June 3. He said, fortunately, there were only a handful of buses used that day and each one was able to pull up to the little bit of asphalt in the parking lot where passengers are loaded for the local tours.
That may not be the case when 12 more ships, several with many more passengers, come calling between August and October.
“There’s no way you can get them all up onto the pavement,” said Spracklin. “I can see them coming now with their white shoes on and trying to keep their slacks out of the mud.”
Many passengers coming off the ship haven’t signed up for the guided excursions. Many of them walk towards downtown or head for the Corner Brook Stream Trail, the entrance to which is across the gravel, pothole-riddled and sometimes muddy parking lot.
“Once they get to the trail, it’s great but they have to get across that parking lot and that’s what they see first,” said Spracklin.
The parking lot is actually divided among three owners. The Corner Brook Port Corporation owns a portion closest to the dock where the ships tie up. Corner Brook Pulp and Paper owns a portion near the gate to the eastern end of the mill’s property, while the provincial government is responsible for the remainder beneath the Lewin Parkway overpass.
Jackie Chow, the port corporation’s chief executive officer, said the port does some maintenance on the area used by buses. That includes grading the lot and placing new class A nearest where passengers get on the buses.
It doesn’t take long for weather and traffic to undo that work.
“We don’t want to be on that gravel area and our object is to not use it at all,” said Chow. “If we can pull the buses up as far as we can, so we don’t have to avail of that area, that is our best option at the moment.”
She said there has never been any joint discussion between the three owners to pave the lot. The part owned by the paper company is not really used during cruise ship visits and she’s sure Corner Brook Pulp and Paper has other plans for its money these days.
“We would not expect them to pave their portion of it just to improve the aesthetic for cruise passengers,” she said.
No one from the paper company returned messages for comment on this story. Nor did the Department of Transportation and Works, which is responsible for the Lewin Parkway and any plans to pave beneath the overpass.
Chow said the port corporation has not had any direct complaints from the cruise lines it deals with, although it has heard from bus drivers and local tour guides about the condition of the parking lot.
“We all agree it would be wonderful to have it paved,” she said. “However, it is a substantial cost and we have limited resources for capital improvements of that nature.”
A bigger priority for the port, added Chow, was placing a mobile washroom facility dockside for passengers and crew coming from and going back to the ship.
“We felt that was a much higher priority and provided a much greater benefit for the passengers,” she said of the facility installed last year. “We chose to invest in that and to deal with the parking lot situation by trying not to use it.”
Chow expects the area where passengers load onto buses will get some maintenance in time for the busier part of the cruise ship season.