By RYAN KING
GRAND BAY-CAPE RAY — Situated in the largely abandoned fishing and farming community of Rocky Barachois, the Cousins family established a small cabin garden to grow vegetables. Located five kilometers northwest of Port aux Basques, in between Grand Bay and Cape Ray, the garden offered a quiet escape with a stunning oceanside view. On a nearby beach, the endangered piping plover still nests.
But this idyllic, peaceful setting was rudely interrupted on Wednesday, June 9 when people on quads approached the private property, with one driving onto it, before the riders all moved down to disrupt the piping plover nesting site.
Once disturbed from their nests, the piping plover usually abandons it altogether, and for an endangered species this is a terrible blow. NL does not allow quad riders to drive on beaches where the piping plovers are nesting, and erects signage warning that ATVs, pedestrians and dogs are not allowed to disturb the birds.
“We were inside our cabin, taking a break from planting our potatoes, when we could hear bikes coming up from the back part of our land. By the time we had gone out by the door, one bike was already in the middle of our property, traveling down through where we had just planted our potatoes,” said Krystal Cousins.
Cousins was at the cabin with her husband and father-in-law, and they had exited the cabin to try and stop the driver. There were three more approaching quads, and seeing the family calling out and waving prompted the drivers to move outside of the vegetable garden. The drivers then found their way to the piping plover nest site.
The drivers had plenty of fair warning. ATVs had been known previously to drive over this property, so the family had placed signage and a fence to protect their land.
“It made us feel defeated. The driver ignored the sign, then found a place in the fence, where he was able to go around and come down through our land. He went around a shovel, a rake, there was a garden hose out, and you could clearly see that it was plowed farm land,” said Cousins.
Cousins noted that the issue with ATVs is likely due to an old trail that was used by locals that ran along the fencing lining the property. However, the fencing gradually deteriorated due to the elements, and ATV drivers began to make new trails that ignored the old fence, carving a trail straight through the middle of the private property.
“Over the last few years, we have decided to spend more time up there and to start this small farming venture. We cannot have people riding all over the property, as now it will be used for growing. We have placed signs, and have replaced the fence to show drivers where to go, but some still refuse to believe that this land is owned, and think they can still drive through it,” said Cousins.
Cousins found herself at a loss at what can be done about the problem, having hoped that the new fencing and signs would be enough, but the family has increased security after these events.
“We’ve also installed a 3G wireless camera and some wild game cameras. Only thing we know to start doing is to press charges if it were to continue to happen,” said Cousins. “We don’t want to see anyone getting into trouble, or losing their bikes. We just want people to respect our property.”
Cousins had posted a video of the destruction to her farm and the drivers continuing on to the beach where the piping plovers nest. They did receive an apology for the incident, and were asked to take down the video, but ultimately declined to do so.
“We are working very hard to grow vegetables that we can sell locally. A lot of time, hard work and money goes into it so it was heart breaking to watch it,” said Cousins.