Tickets to win this punt will soon go on sale.
The following statement was released Monday by The Narrows Group during a news conference on the St. John's harbour front.
•••Welcome and thanks for coming.
My name is Ryan Cleary, Member of Parliament for St. John`s South-Mount Pearl, but I`m here today in my capacity as chair of The Narrows Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, protecting and enhancing the historic entrance to St. John`s harbour.
This is Mark Hiscock, co-chair of The Narrows Group.
The Narrows Group has teamed up with the organizers of The Great Fogo Island Punt Race to launch the 1st annual Grand Punt Race, Townies vs. Baymen.
The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 10th – weather permitting, Aug. 11 is the alternate date – with the first race getting under way in the waters off Harbourside Park at 10:30 a.m.
The goal of the punt race is two-fold:
First, to draw attention to the desperate state of The Narrows, to generate public support for restoration of both sides of the entrance to the harbour – the Battery and Fort Amherst – and to start raising private money to meet our ambitious goals.
The Narrows becomes more iconic with each passing year.
Even the hit CBC Television show, Republic of Doyle, has chosen a sweeping shot of The Narrows in its opening sequence to each show.
The Narrows is the gateway where the past, present and future meet.
The Second World War instillations at Fort Amherst are barricaded and crumbling into the sea — some of the military history there dates back to the 1770s when the original fort was built and named after Colonel William Amherst, who led British troops against the French at the Battle of Signal Hill in 1762, the last North American battle of the Seven Years` War.
Fort Amherst was also the site of Newfoundland`s first lighthouse in 1835.
Across The Narrows, the wharves and stages, the rich fishing heritage, and culture that the Battery is known for are also falling into the sea.
It used to be that a fisherman could replace a wharf or stage damaged in a storm – these days you need a city permit and an engineering study.
The people of the Battery can`t afford that.
So what do we do?
We have to find a way to preserve what we can`t afford to lose – our link with the past.
We have to take the first step to preserving and enhancing what we have and where we come from.
The second goal of The Grand Punt Race, Townies vs. Baymen, is to draw attention to a mainstay of the traditional inshore fishery – the punt, and ongoing efforts to preserve the art of wooden boat building.The punt has been described as a fishermans wheelbarrow.
Years ago basic agriculture consisted of a pig, a punt and a potato patch.
The punt is a part of who we are.
So many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians today don`t understand the difference between a punt and a dory.
We’ve teamed up with the organizers of The Great Fogo Island Punt Race – the Shorefast Foundation – to put off this race.
The foundation – which has made incredible strides in reviving and preserving near lost Newfoundland and Labrador tradition and culture — is providing two punts and the two crews from beyond the overpass.
Punts may no longer be rowed across The Narrows like they used to, but this race is yet another way to draw attention to this precious part of our culture.
The punts will be packed with Baymen/Townie pride – with Newfoundland and Labrador pride.
We’re challenging the crews who participated in the Royal St. John’s Regatta to supply the four rowers — to represent Town in the first annual Grand Punt Race.
The punt race will consist of two Townie teams (one male and one female), and two Baymen teams (one male and one female), with one winner for each category.
This is a challenge.
Townie pride is on the line and we need our best rowers to step forward.
The races of the Royal St. John’s Regatta were first held in St. John’s harbour – the Regatta was birthed in the harbour.
And we’re calling the rowers home.
Make no mistake, this race is not for the faint of heart — it’s a serious race and it’s a hard race.
We come from a hearty race, and we need our best to step forward.HISCOCK
The Narrows Group has purchased a traditional Newfoundland punt with a generous donation from Charlie Anonsen, owner of the legendary Scademia and one of the first tour-boat operators in the province.Tickets will be sold on the punt at the Royal St. John’s Regatta, during the annual Grand Punt Race, as well as at various locations around town.
Efforts have been ongoing for years to rejuvenate Fort Amherst.
In 2002 – 11 years ago - the Grand Concourse Authority, the St. John`s East Rotary Club, and the City of St. John`s spearheaded a Fort Amherst Feasibility Analysis and Site Development Plan for Fort Amherst, but it went nowhere in terms of securing the necessary funding.
In 2010, the City of St. John’s attempted to secure funds under a Parks Canada National Historic Sites cost-shared program but those efforts were also unsuccessful.
We want to praise all these groups that have brought us to where we are now.CLEARY
Where are we now?We`ve met with the City of St. John`s – with Mayor Denis O`Keefe, the city manager and various councilors – and they`ve agreed to update the engineering plan for Fort Amherst.
Everyone is on board, everyone is behind our efforts – all parties agree that it`s time to get this done.Fort Amherst, at the entrance to St. John’s harbor, is a mess, it’s a disgrace.
Our cod fishery is a shadow of what it once was, so many of our boats are pulled up and rotting, wooden boat building is in danger of becoming a lost art, and Fort Amherst is crumbing into the sea.
What should be a reflection of our incredible military and fishing history has become a neglected eye sore, an embarrassment.Fort Amherst should hold its own with the likes of Signal Hill and Cabot Tower, Cape Spear, Quidi Vidi, and Petty Harbour.
Instead, Fort Amherst is barricaded and abandoned.
The Grand Punt Race, Townies Vs. Baymen is the first step in breathing new life into The Narrows.We`ll take your questions.