November 2nd, 2005
The above photo is the property of N.A.G.S and we thank them for the use of the picture. In the above picture, taken in mid October, one can see that the tunnel is almost completed with the wall in place.
Since the headlines hit the St. Catherine's Standard News Paper about the decision made by the Seaway Corporation to seal up the Old Merritton Tunnel AKA (The Blue Ghost Tunnel ) for safety concerns and liability issues, have us trying to digest all the information.
We have received a lot of emails in regards to this issue from folks that truly care about the old tunnel. After reading these concerns it inspired us to make this commentary about the Seaway's decision to seal up a piece of history that played a important part into the Welland Canal History.
Our main concern about the BGT being walled in is the short sightedness of the Seaway for this issue in our opinion. Many locals including us have come to enjoy the fact that one could walk around the area of the old canal locks and be able to take a glimpse at what the canals in the area used to be like. Many memories of days gone by would strike many seniors that would just enjoy a walk around the area taking in something from the past. There are many trails that one could take to the present day canal to see some things that cannot be viewed easily from the west side of the canal. These trails are known by many of the locals that live in the area and unless given direction to these trails by those that know the area, many folks would not know about them.
This leaves us a bit confused to this issue about sealing up the BGT. We totally agree with the statements by the Seaway when they quoted in the paper as saying people have a "sue everyone attitude" so this leaves us with the thought, is the tunnel being sealed up for safety and liability issues? We do agree if one looks at the tunnel today ( And we make the claim that we are not engineers) but when they say the tunnel leaks, we cannot to date remember going under any canal that has no leaks in the summer or icicles in winter time. To date there are three Canal tunnels in the Welland area, and each tunnel have some form of leakage to them. So this could not be the reason. If it were then they would have to make plans to seal up each tunnel around the Welland area and we are pretty sure that this would never happen.
If the structure of the old Merriton Tunnel (BGT) were to be unsound and might cave in at anytime, this could be plausible, but lets remember that the tunnel in question has stood there for over a century with no problems. This could be the reason and it does sound better than the first explanation given by the Seaway when they had quoted the liability and safety issues.
Now looking at this issue further, there was mention by the Seaway that there are a lot of kids that go down there at night and party as well as some folks going down there to conduct paranormal research would have to be the obvious reason and most truthful. But in the kids defense as well as the many paranormal groups that go to the tunnel, the route to the BGT is not fenced off. The road is open to anyone who wishes to go down to the tunnel.
There is one thing that someone is missing in all of this. This liability issue does not set right with what we have read in the paper. If we stop for a moment and look at the canal as a whole, we would see a lot of liability issues, and the Seaway has done nothing to help themselves.
For example, in the past in Port Colborne there used to be two bridge operators. One to control the span of the bridge and the other on the ground to signal when the bridge was safe to come down and to keep people from crossing the barricades. Because of funding issues the Seaway thought best to remove the ground operator from the system. At this point, the liability of the Seaway just increased exponentially since now kids could freely go through the barricades and sit below the counterweight. They have been seen sitting on the edge of the concrete while the bridge was coming down. A few years later they had removed the bridge span operator and put in place remote controls to run the bridge from a central location.The Seaway had installed cameras at all key points, but this doesn't change the fact that their liability had increased. The piers are accessible from the mouth of the canal, especially in Port Colbourn. The canal can be entered from anywhere along its piers and walls as well as it's shores.
The above example can carry on to the area of the BGT. Our final point into this liability issue has us wondering how the Seaway can use this as an excuse. Some of the locks in and around the BGT are almost empty and the old wooden gates that were in place at the third Welland Canal had long since been removed. Over by the old pump house for example has a drop of about 50 feet to the bottom of the lock where you can see some water flow is still lingering. Now we ask the question, would a fall from this height be fatal? Now what about the Seaway's liability to safeguard individuals who want to see the canal from this point of view?
It must be that the Seaway must think that no one will go to the edge and peer down into the canal for it would be a high fall. This of course would be common sense to most people, but let's remember that some would get close to the edge and peer down and they could fall in. In fact there was a fall from a local teen that was swimming near the old pump house that had fallen into the canal. Did the Seaway put up a fence after this incident? You guessed it, they never did.
Everyone knows that the Seaway also had problems with 4X4 trucks going around and near the old canals as well as dirt bikes, and in the winter time snow mobiles. Did the Seaway put up a fence to stop this sort of outdoor entertainment for those that ventured near the old canals? You guessed it again, they never did.
To us, we would think that if any of these vehicles flipped over on Seaway property they could be liable for a law suit. Our guess is that maybe this sort of thing does not matter to them. What does matter are the folks that venture to the tunnel and the Seaway have to safe guard these folks only.
This reminds me of the old Mike Harris Days "The Common Sense Revolution" It only fits into this common sense of the Seaway about liability issues where they think the liability issues should be placed to please them.Our guess at this time as far as common sense is concerned where liability issues lay with the Seaway is only at the tunnel.
Is the Seaway trusting folks to use their common sense to stay away from the walls of the canals?
Did the Seaway put up fencing to keep people away from the old canals?
To date the land around the Seaway has no fencing at all to keep people out.We think that this liability issue with the Blue Ghost Tunnel is nothing more than a far reach to justify closing the tunnel. Of course this is our opinion only.
Final point to this issue. If the Seaway were to fence in the area around the BGT, then the Seaway would have no more liability issues since it would take an individual to climb the fence to get in and therefore it would be up to his/hers discretion to knowingly and willingly break the law of No Trespassing.
In this case, the Seaway would have done all that they could do to safeguard people on their property. But some individuals would be determined to break the law, therefore the Seaway should be devoid of any responsibility in this matter. In essence, the BGT would not have to be sealed up. Maybe someone should take a little closer look at the liability issue. Please understand that we are not lawyers, but a group that really cares about the issues that surround the tunnel in general and that cares about the history of the tunnel for future generations to come.
Another approach to preserving the tunnel would be to have the area made into a historical park where folks could go and see the tunnel. Or maybe have the land turned over to the conservation authority to preserve the natural lands that surround the BGT and still have the land developed into park land. We can only hope that future plans can be made to preserve the tunnel the way it should be seen.
The tunnel to date is completely sealed off with a rod iron door attached as seen in the above photo. The door that is being used is almost funny when one stops to think of it for a moment. It almost looks like a jail cell door. Maybe this door was put in to jail all the spirits within the tunnel with no chance of parole :)
The picture again is from the N.A.G.S. website and we thank their team for the use of it.