Over the phone at least, Bruce Livingston seems like a take charge kind of guy, or perhaps he’s just too nice to say no. Last summer after he and his wife, Janet, bought a holiday home in Rose Blanche, he found himself curious about the history of the area. Now he’s running a committee dedicated to it.
The Livingstons are friends with John and Jane Wright, who are setting up Shed Pottery in their Rose Blanche holiday home. Both couples hail from Vancouver.
“We followed their adventures,” said Bruce via telephone from British Columbia. “My wife and I have always had a great interest in Newfoundland. We’ve both been visitors and volunteers there a number of times over the years and we wanted to spend more time, so it was a good opportunity.”
The Livingstons were initially hoping to return to Rose Blanche early this month.
“With all of this COVID stuff and the crazy plane schedules changing around and just the chance to get our vaccines out here, we thought we’d delay our trip a little bit.”
When he does return, it seems Bruce has some more volunteer work waiting for him.
“The town has a number of other heritage aspects, of course, but didn’t have the ability to actually make any designations, so municipal heritage designations,” explains Bruce. “So what I’ve been working on with the Town Mayor (Clayton Durnford) and Council is getting a heritage regulation passed.”
The regulation passed earlier in 2021 and will allow the Town of Rose Blanche-Harbour Le Cou to designate a structure or area as of historical importance, perhaps even out as far as Diamond Cove. The town’s popular lighthouse already has that designation by the province.
“The lighthouse is great, but it’s going sort of beyond that and getting other heritage and historic aspects of the Town some form of recognition,” said Bruce.
Under the Municipalities Act, towns that choose to recognize areas of local historic importance may choose to set up a heritage advisory committee.
“A lot of towns in Newfoundland in particular have advanced their recognition of built heritage – Bay Roberts, Heart’s Content and places like that, and certainly Bonavista. We’re not trying to do exactly as they do, but it’s similar. When it’s a visitor who wants to know more, it’s not always someone like me who wants to do a lot of reading in advance of a visit, but if it’s something that can easily be seen and learned when they’re there then I think that really enhances the visitor experience.”
Setting up a committee sounds simple enough, but like with most small towns in the province there is more demand for volunteers than actual volunteers.
“Everybody is stretched pretty thin, so it’s one of those things where they said, “Well, you know, great. If you want to be Chair of the Heritage Advisory Committee go for it and you’re it, so I am,” laughed Bruce.
It’s still quite early in the new Heritage Advisory Committee’s work, but Bruce says some folks have already expressed some interest and willingness to lend a hand.
“We’ll kind of pull them together as the summer goes on and the years go on.”
Bruce already has a few ideas for what kind of work the committee might want to focus on.
“The main thing that strikes out, that are already there, are the trails – The Lighthouse Trail or the trail from Harbour Le Cou to Rose Blanche. These trails have pretty strong historic purposes and the Harbour Le Cou trail, for example, there’s grave sites there, there’s an old school site, old apple trees, things like that,” said Bruce. “Just the history of how that trail was put in place and what it was used for.”
Work has been done on the trails in the past and some already have signage in place, but signs are just one aspect that can be used to attract visitors noted Bruce.
“Then there’s a number of structures in town too –fewer and fewer as some get torn down and that work is a bit more delicate because folks have houses which have heritage value have an opportunity to potentially get some assistance on repairs and maintenance, but there are restrictions on change of structures and things like that if you go that route.”
Bruce’s vision is to offer tourists and residents a sense of the historic aspects of the heritage that does remain.
“You know the lighthouse folks have done a great job with that project and publicizing the trails,” said Bruce. “Building that up, building a bit of a walking tour for visitors with heritage structures highlighted, that’s something which would be likely of interest. A bit more signage, perhaps, on some of the sites, just to tell a little bit of the history.”
In Harbour Le Cou, for example, Bruce talks about the historic and colourful stages and sheds, and houses that haven’t been changed much in decades.
“The stories of those houses are going to disappear if they’re not collected and shared.”
If undertaking this work helps to draw in more tourists then that’s just fine by Bruce.
“It’s to add an extra dimension really. The lighthouse is a big draw,” said Bruce. “This is to add an extra element to that really and to give tourists a reason to stay a little longer.”
Installing new resources for that will require money, of course, and that’s another hurdle the committee will have to overcome, There may be provincial tourism grants to assist.
“That’s probably not so much this year, but down the road. There’s also the opportunity for some funding and work with some of the cemetery sites, the grave sites, because they’re kind of disappearing.”
Bruce has done a lot of research into the area’s history already and listened to stories shared by its residents.
“I think I’m pretty familiar. I’ve long been a great lover of Newfoundland and Labrador and have read a lot of books and stories on it over the years.”
He’s still keen to learn even more and he’s already stumbled across a bit of treasure.
“There was a store in Harbour Le Cou. It’s not there anymore. It was torn down but all the records were kept. A fellow had the foresight to keep all of those records,” said Bruce. “People are digging out pictures and things that they have. If they don’t get saved and recognized, they’ll disappear.”