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Black Watch Pass: falling rock concerns

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Falling rock dangers: Black Watch Pass was a roadway created in 1934 to solve a major transportation problem(Photograph by David Skinner)

Residents and business owners in the Black Watch Pass area have voiced concern over the potential of more falling rocks.

In April, a large chunk of limestone rock collapsed from the wall, crashing on to the pavement where people walk and run on a regular basis.

It is not the first time rock has fallen, with the Bermuda Government patching up sections of the wall in the past with concrete bricks.

Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Public Works, has told this newspaper that his ministry is aware of the dangers and is looking into whether a netting mechanism could reduce any risk of injury.

Area resident and new father Troy Burgess said he had been walking his newborn daughter down Black Watch Pass just a few weeks before the collapse.

He told The Royal Gazette: “I used to take my baby down there, about a month before the rocks fell. I did see the rocks another time when we drove through there and I was like, ‘OK, the walls do keep on dropping.’

“You still see the patches there. You have people who walk through there and run through there so it’s a good thing that no one got hurt.

“I don’t think a net is going to hold it — it is a stone wall so if it is going to get soaking wet it’s going to give.”

Black Watch Pass was built in 1934 to solve a major transportation problem, by connecting North Shore Road with Hamilton. Co-manager at the nearby C-Mart, Wayne Correia, said he was aware of rocks falling over the years.

He said: “It is going back ten to 12 years ago they had the same sort of issues. Bits and pieces fall down. If you put a net it is still going to fall. What they probably should do is dig it out and put a block there like they have in the past. If they don’t do that it is just going to continue to grow, especially with all the wet summers we have had this year.

“From the beginning of July up until now it has been raining every other day. That is obviously having an effect.”

Mr Correia’s brother and co-manager Andrew Correia said: “It is a safety issue more for the walkers. I have always had a fear of the archway coming down. My grandfather had a hand in building that when they dug it out. You drive by sometimes and you just have bits on the ground. It is weatherworn. I don’t think it is a major concern. I am more concerned about how it looks. It is kind of a landmark but the sides are overgrown and the wall is falling down.”

Food truck owner Karen Gilbert added: “Somebody could get hurt. As winter comes in and we get more rain, it could get worse.”

Mr Cannonier said that the ministry monitors the pass and carries out routine maintenance and repair work when necessary.

He said: “The local limestone rock is very susceptible to weathering. Even small debris falling from height is a safety concern both from a pedestrian and a vehicle point of view.

“The ministry will look at the feasibility of using a netting mechanism in certain areas that could help minimise the risk of rock from falling.”

A ministry spokeswoman said: “The ministry will look at the most feasible solution of dealing with this issue. Whilst looking for a sound corrective measure, we will continue to patch the tunnel as we have traditionally done so. Stepping the rock face is not feasible as it would require a lot of land that would impact properties and roads at the top of the rock cut. The net/mesh is specialised and this technique is used extensively in other countries for rock retention.”

Bits and pieces fall down: Andrew and Wayne Correia, co-managers of C-Mart(Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Don’t think a net will hold it: Black Watch Pass area resident and new father Troy Burgess(Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Owner of Karen’s food truck Karen Gilbert(Photographer by Sarah Lagan)
Black Watch Pass(Photograph by David Skinner)