After the padlock goes on, what next?
Opinion and photos by Jim Brown
Next time you drive past an elementary or high school on PEI take a closer look. Except for the bright yellow school buses and the crossing guards and the teachers and kids milling around, or maybe the display sign promoting upcoming events at the school, why would your eyes be drawn to a rather boring, non-descript building?
Imagine what that building would look like when nobody is using it, when it is sitting empty, no events to advertise on its display sign, no laughing kids and teachers standing around waiting for the bell, no buses idling outside.
It might as well be a rusting apartment complex in the former Soviet Union – an industrial blight on the landscape. Cold, sterile blocks of concrete and brick slowly rotting away.
Want to see what disused buildings look like after just a few years or even months? Go search images of the Sochi Winter Olympics. You might also want to type last summer’s Rio Games into your search engine. Many of the images will be disheartening.
I sure hope provincial bureaucrats and politicians have given some sober thought to what the loss of five elementary schools recommended for closure by the PEI Public Schools Branch will do to the communities in which they are located. They sure as hell better take into account the cost of heating and maintaining the buildings and of paying for necessary repairs and renovations that come with creeping age.
These are, after all, not the charming one and two-bedroom schoolhouses that used to dot PEI’s landscape, such as the two-room school in Stanley Bridge, closed long ago, that has more recently been transformed into the Red Door Oyster Company Café. That building draws the eye with its attractive lines and inviting design and its living, breathing connection to an important time in the Island’s history.
As recently as 1973 there were as many as 56 one and two room schools operating in communities large and small. They weren’t anything like the elementary schools kids go to today, which are bleak, utilitarian monuments that would gladden a Soviet central planner’s heart.
Where one and two room schools were built more than a 100 years ago and sport “good bones” and a rustic charm and can easily be converted into restaurants and WIs and country museums and craft stores and even private homes, what possible use can be made for the grey, brooding monstrosities we have inherited since the 1950s? Why on earth would anyone want to purchase one of these empty steel and concrete slabs that look the same as every other steel and concrete slab sitting on every other school property in North America?
Who would want to spend tens of thousands, or maybe more removing asbestos and other undesirable materials safely before even considering the renovations necessary to convert an idle building into something useful?
I fear, unlike beautiful wooden one and two room schools, they will be hard, perhaps even impossible to sell without substantial government subsidies.
Basically our cash-strapped provincial government would be forced to hand out even more money to have the buildings taken off its books.
Maybe they can be used for farmer’s markets. But that’s only a seasonal use. Maybe they can be converted into mini-malls with retail outlets. Sure, but I can’t see that happening without Joe and Jill taxpayer contributing big time in the form of six figure handouts.
Of the five schools recommended for closure – Georgetown Elementary, Belfast Consolidated, St Jean Elementary, St Louis Elementary and Bloomfield Elementary, only one, Georgetown Elementary, was built in the 1950s (1957). All the rest were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. You can bet pine and other types of wood weren’t a big factor in their construction.
There may be compelling reasons to close any one or all of the five buildings slated for mothballing, such as plunging enrolment and lack of resources for students attending them. But the provincial government better have a well-thought out plan for decommissioning them since it will likely not be a seller’s market when they are shuttered.
In the long run, perhaps the best outcome might be to just bulldoze them.
There is a choice in life that everyone makes.
Opinion and photos by Jim Brown
We can choose to bring beauty into this world. We can cultivate it and make it take root in places where it has rarely been seen before. Or we can embrace the ugliness, the darkness that lies within everyone’s heart.
One clear example of the former was the remarkable, inspiring march on Feb 4 that drew thousands of Islanders to Charlottetown. They were showing their revulsion towards those who would seek to divide Canadians along racial, cultural and religious lines. The peaceful assembly was organized shortly after the horrific terrorist attack on Muslim worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City which claimed the lives of half a dozen men and wounded 19 others. A 27-year-old white man, who “liked” Trump on a Facebook page, was arrested and charged with several counts of murder and attempted murder.
According to media estimates as many as 2,000 Islanders, young and old, well off and poor, from a wide range of ethnicities and religious and cultural backgrounds, packed Charlottetown’s downtown on a cold, chilly Saturday morning and early afternoon. They walked peacefully to Province House hoisting placards condemning rising anti-Muslim sentiment across the country.
Those feelings were given legitimacy by American president Donald Trump. His travel ban targeted at seven Muslim-majority countries, initially struck down by the courts, threatened to tear apart innocent families and destroy countless lives. The ban brought chaos to airports across America.
It was discriminatory, it was racist, it was bigoted, short-sighted and just plain wrong. Trump has also directed law enforcement agencies to go after and deport millions of undocumented Americans, many of whom have paid taxes, gone to university, started businesses, raised families and become valuable contributors to the American economy and to society.
The peaceful march in Charlottetown was a big group hug for everyone involved. I participated in it myself, travelling from my home in Stanley Bridge. I was joined by several neighbors and friends.
Everything was so well organized and food and refreshments were offered to participants at no charge.
I can’t believe official estimates topped out at 2,000. Based on what I saw and heard from others at the event I wouldn’t be surprised if the true number was closer to 2,500 or even 3,000.
You don’t have to look far to see the ugliness that consumes millions of people in Canada and the US – that fuels hate crimes, discrimination, cyber-bullying and other forms of intimidation and violence.
The very worst of human nature was in full display at Tuesday night’s presidential address. Donald Trump called for unity and a sense of collective resolve to deal with the world’s, and America’s, many festering problems. But he showed little of that in his dark, dissembling speech, in which he also renewed his despicable vow to build a wall along the Mexican border at a time when traffic northward was slowing. He also heaped blame on illegal immigrants for a surge in violent crime, when statistics prove that isn’t true. He even doubled down on a blatant untruth repeated several times earlier, claiming America’s murder rate is among the highest in nearly half a century.
Trump continued to fan the flames of hatred towards “the other” – illegal immigrants, Muslims, and many others who don’t agree with his policies and his warped world view.
Trump used a “divide and conquer” strategy to narrowly win the Nov 8 election and he clearly believes that will help him broaden his appeal. It’s up to all of us who care about basic human values of decency, respect, compassion and tolerance, to prove him wrong. Those of us who believe it is possible to beat back the darkness that is descending on the world should resolve to be at the next rally in our area. If we want a better future, in which everyone can enjoy the fruits of freedom and prosperity, we have to take that first step ourselves. We have to be counted.
Marina development creating big splash in Stanley Bridge
Story and photos by Jim Brown
In little more than a month two buildings now under construction next to a brand new marina and recently completed breakwater will be offered for rentals. A third building was moved next to the two newer ones, to be used as the boaters’ meeting building and gathering place.
The Stanley Bridge wharf and marina work, which began two years ago, is almost finished and the economic benefits brought to the wharf will radiate outwards to the entire Stanley Bridge, New London, Cavendish area, as well as much of the North Shore, says Stephen Dimond, a director with the Stanley Bridge Harbour Authority who has helped shepherd the massive development through the various planning and development stages. He is also the author of a 200-page report that got project rolling.
It’s going to be “a great year ahead” said Dimond, adding showers, laundry facilities, retail shops and a clubhouse will be ready for business only a short time after spring chases away the last traces of ice from the harbor.
“Kayak rentals, water sports of some kind, an antique shop, crafts,” are just some of the possibilities. In any case, the buildings should make it much easier for boat-owners and visitors to work and play at the wharf.
“Last year we didn’t have the facilities, now we will have a washroom, driers, showers, laundry and so on,” said Dimond.
The new buildings are just the latest piece of the overall puzzle, which is now fitting together nicely.
Within the past year an impressive breakwater, costing nearly a million dollars, was finished – cost shared by the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency (ACOA), the Province of PEI, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Stanley Bridge Harbour Authority.
In addition to protecting fishing boats, buildings and other structures, the breakwater is also sheltering as many as 50 new slips, all sought by recreational boat owners, and there should be room for more down the road.
The pleasure craft are berthed next to lobster boats during May and June when the spring lobster fishery is underway, as well as mussel fishing boats, which travel back and forth for much of the year.
There has been a long pent-up demand for the slips.
“The list (for pleasure craft) went all the way to 2006,” said Dimond, adding there were as many as 70 names at one point on the list. The current waiting list has been reduced to as few as 10 to 12 names.
“We have a mix of 20 and 30 foot wharfs,” to accommodate any boat up to about 40 feet in length, said Dimond. He estimates by the time all the work is completed at the wharf the price tag could top $2 million. ACOA, the DFO and the Stanley Bridge Harbour Authority are all contributing to the project. As impressive as the allocation was it was pared back from the original tab of four million dollars, he noted. Still, at two million dollars the spending approved for the wharf was amongst the largest of any port on PEI last year.
According to a recent study completed by Dimond in the report that led to the marina and related work, there are roughly 2,500 commercial boats on the Island (fishing vessels) and as many as 15,550 recreational boats. That’s a lot of demand for slips.
The report went on to state there are up to 20 kms of river systems available to recreational boat owners in the New London Bay area that the marina would serve.
Furthermore, according to Dimond, in 2011 two of every three Island residents were within 50 km of the Stanley Bridge wharf, and most of those are within 35-40 minutes drive, not far at all to indulge a favorite pastime. The harbour authority report says there are 700 marina berths for the Island’s 15,500 recreational boats.
The same report identified 161 to 350 likely boats needing a berth within range of the Stanley Bridge marina.
The Stanley Bridge Centre, which hosts history circles and farmer’s markets and is also a venue for entertainment and various community events, stands to benefit greatly from the improvements to the wharf since it is just 300 metres from the harbor. That makes it an ideal venue for meetings and gatherings involving the marina and the harbour authority.
Dimond says the expanded wharf will lead to further development in the area, including more cottages, more businesses and hundreds of thousands more visits. Property values will increase, as will the pool of taxes for the Province.
The Stanley Bridge wharf is busy even in the dead of winter, in January, with the continued construction of the two retail buildings and the loading and unloading of mussel boats.
It will be exciting to see what happens in the spring.
The Stanley Bridge Farmers Market – Fresh, Local, Organic – Back Next Year
Wednesdays 9am to 1pm … with Artisans on Saturdays 9am to 1pm !
Starting next July we will be pleased to continue the Stanley Bridge Farmers Market at the Centre. From 9am until 1pm, on Wednesdays throughout the summer, you’ll find the finest fresh food that PEI has to offer. Help grow the Community Appeal and the knowledge that Stanley Bridgers and visitors alike care about the foods we eat and the environment around us. Join us again next summer for Fresh, Local, and Organic products – direct from the farm to you.
We welcome enquiries from Farmers, Food Vendors, and local producers !
Saturday’s Market will feature both fresh and local food, as well as Craftspeople and Artisans :
- Shipwrights : shipwrightspei.com
- B’Haven Honey
- White Gables fresh produce
We are seeking new quality vendors !
The Stanley Bridge Centre – A Venue for Culture and Events
In September, 2008, due to declining membership and financial costs to maintain the building, the Stanley Bridge United Church, in Stanley Bridge, Prince Edward Island, was decommissioned. The United Church Presbytery of PEI and Maritime Conference decided in 2009 to officially turn the building over to the former members of the church and they in turn applied to be incorporated as the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society Inc. Directors and trustees were appointed to provide the leadership and direction for the building, as they felt that it was important to maintain its rich heritage and legacy.
The Board’s Mission Statement was the historic preservation of the church and heritage of the Stanley Bridge church. The Stanley Bridge Centre would provide a Cultural/Events Centre and Archival Room that will house historical items and artifacts of significance as well as genealogy records. The Farmers Market is an undertaking that continues the tradition of this community meeting place.
This renewal project will require a large financial undertaking as a new basement is needed as well as washrooms, a kitchen, window restoration, a new roof, insulation and accessibility for all. The Stanley Bridge Memorial Society Inc, owner of the building, has charitable status and is continuing a campaign to raise funds for building improvements. This website provides an historical background, a virtual tour of the interior and exterior, a viewing of the plans for the building, a Donation page and many other features.
We ask that you consider a donation to our renewal project as we believe that the building is a landmark in the community and deserves to have it’s legacy continue for years to come. We trust that you will support this important community effort in Stanley Bridge.
Stanley Bridge Memorial Society
This website will include developments in the planning, historical research and the ongoing process of fundraising and of the restoration, repair and reconstruction of the Stanley Bridge Cantre. Check back often to keep abreast of what is happening and how your contribution is helping to realize the goals of the Society.