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 Stanl]ey 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.
The 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.
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.
A new vision for Stanley Bridge
Story and photos by Jim Brown
I am surrounded by trees at my Sutherland Lane home. Behind my house I can step into the woods and be transported into a magical world of beauty and enchantment.
A short walk later I break through the woods and am on a well-worn path carved into a farmer’s field. I can look in one direction and see a line of trees standing like flagpoles, arched to the sun and clouds and in another direction see the blue waters of the Stanley River, framed by large bales of hay.
Just a few minutes walk down Rattenbury Road past more fields and beautifully kept homes, partially hidden by shrubs and trees, and I am at the roundabout, where I can go straight ahead and walk for another half hour or so to Cavendish, or hang a right and head down St Mary’s Road past rolling hills, seasonal and permanent homes and historic farmsteads. In the winter fields that stretch from the road to the sky are draped with snow and ice.
Turn left at the roundabout and walk past the gas station and there is the Stanley Bridge Centre, a historic site upon which stands a decommissioned church – a favoured haunt in the summer and fall of Islanders and tourists alike for farmers’ markets, musical performances and history circles. Just a few minutes more and I am at the Stanley Bridge Harbour wharf, home to dozens of pleasure craft and lobster and mussel boats. There I can look across to see the inviting waters of New London Bay.
It’s something all people who live in the area, whether as seasonal or permanent residents, take for granted and know, deep down, they really shouldn’t
Many tourists would be thrilled to live in a community like ours.
Joyce Phillips, who lives in the area, says she sees tourists outside her home transfixed by the sight of something we see every day, the Cavendish dunes nestled on the other side of New London Bay.
It’s not enough to simply witness it – visitors want to lay claim to the landscape, as Islanders do.
That’s the whole point of the Stanley Bridge Accelerated Destination and Design open house, held Nov 7 at the Sterling Women’s Institute Community Hall. It was one of several held recently.
“People would literally walk down our lane, cross our property and stand there amazed (at the sight). It’s the view. Where can I go? Where can I get out to those dunes? How come those boats are going out there,” said Joyce.
Weaving all of Stanley Bridge’s many attractions into one seamless experience would help make the area a much more desirable destination.
Tourists are increasingly looking for unique, original and immersive experiences – something off the beaten path, that includes history, culture and wildlife.
The world doesn’t need more tourist traps, it needs more of what Stanley Bridge offers.
Another presenter, Adam Hickey of Maritime Fun Group, said a pedestrian walkway would help connect Stanley Bridge’s most sought after attractions.
“A pedestrian walkway from Stanley Bridge Resort to the Gables to the pier to the Swimming Rock, (would connect) all of the major points in the community,” he said.
The exercise is volunteer driven and co-ordinated by Mr Sawler and the firm iImagine.
“Tourism is only these things: accommodations, retail, food, entertainment and outdoor activity, ” said Mr Sawler.
Those five things are the key with every destination.
Among the priority initiatives discussed by volunteers was the ability to just get out and stroll. To do that and get enthusiastic thumbs up from visitors, these things were needed: a boardwalk, light posts, hanging baskets, a place to walk behind the cemetery, picnic tables, attractive signage, wooden materials for a playground, parking, small shops, bike racks and somewhere to visit away from the road.
The Stanley Bridge Roundabout and its corner also got a close look and volunteers saw the need for more parking, greater accessibility and lighting for evening use.
They also investigated the idea of an ‘oysters and mussel’ motif and the use of nautical ship wheel and carriage sculptures, with that becoming a feature for park benches and resting areas.
Preserving and enhancing Stanley Bridge’s natural beauty and promoting the area as eco-friendly were top of the list.
But Mr Sawler warned even if a comprehensive plan is developed that has the support of all levels of government it could still take years for the transformation to occur. Patience is needed.
Similar programs have been implemented for Georgetown and Souris.
“What does it take to build tourism? Time and money,” said Mr Sawler.
Royal haters are a particularly vindictive lot
By Nils Ling
If you’re an Islander ‘through and through’ it’s a good bet you know Nils Ling or have heard his name.
Mr Ling, who ran for the Green Party in 2015 in the federal riding of Egmont, is an author, playwright, actor, filmmaker, syndicated newspaper columnist and former broadcaster who has served as president of Film PEI. A resident of Breadalbane, he is also an unabashed royalist and a fierce fan of Harry and Meghan.
I grew up in a family where arguing was a blood sport.
There were six kids – three along each side of the table. And at supper time my dad would throw out a topic. One side would argue from one position, the other diametrically opposed. And half way through my dad would stop the noise and say “Okay – now switch.” And we would have to stand and defend that which we adamantly opposed only moments earlier.
It was good training on seeing the other side of the argument.
I am a royalist. And if you think you have the perfect argument opposing the idea of hereditary privilege and why Queen Elizabeth is a drain on the economy and how in these times, royalty makes no sense, you go on ahead and make it – but please understand I have argued from your side and you are unlikely to give me anything new to think about. I love the Royals more and more every day because every frigging day we see the cost of inconstancy and lack of a foundation in tradition.
We see con artists and ne’er-do-wells. We see flavours of the day. We see those willing to promise the moon for five years of power with no regard to what has happened before and what will happen after. We see the daily cost of a lack of any continuity and it is staggering.
And there – always there – is the Queen. She is a bridge to the past and a stabilizing example we can follow for the future.
That’s why I don’t get those who spew animosity towards Harry and Meghan as they break from The Firm and try to go their own way.
And it’s there. When you read the comments on Facebook posts (which I do not recommend), there are those who couch their arguments against these two young people in vile, derisive terms. “Well, it better not be Canadians on the hook for their security.” “Oh, poor little rich boy, can’t take his life of entitlement.” And on and on, ad infinitum.
Just … stop. These kids are doing the right thing – for them and, by extension, for everyone else.
Harry had no choice as to the circumstances of his birth. None. Yet he has not sat idly by.
He served on active duty in harm’s way in Afghanistan, only being removed when some Aussie asshole reporter got a “scoop” and revealed his whereabouts, endangering those around him.
He and his wife have raised millions for charities using their fame and his position which, it bears repeating, he had NO CHOICE ABOUT.
He has opted to leave the life of privilege for the sake of his family’s safety and he and his wife are paying back the British taxpayers for renos to their London home. They will not be immediately self sufficient but will get there within a few years and in the meantime their major costs, including security which will be substantial will be covered by Prince Charles – not the Canadian government.
Royal haters are a particularly vindictive lot. They hate people for who they are and now, it seems, they are able to find hate in their hearts when people try to do the right thing.
I feel badly for them. It must be so tiring.
Tips on how not to be a jerk this winter
By Michelle M Arsenault
I think all islanders were horrified to watch Newfoundland getting hit with storm after storm, followed by a blizzard that required residents to go home, stay home and not move until the army came along to save them. Let’s face it PEI – it was a little too close to home. Not only did those fierce storms bring back some terrible ghosts from winters’ past, it reminded us there’s still time to get blasted by Mother Nature’s wrath. After all, it’s January and spring is still about another four to five months away. Hopefully.
Meanwhile, there’s a few tips that I would like to pass along just in case we have a few more storms on the way. Consider them ‘thoughtful suggestions’.
1. If you head out on the roads after a storm and feel that some areas need extra attention, let the proper people know. Even though there’s some satisfaction from ranting to your best friend, boss or everyone on Facebook, you’ll probably have more chance of a resolution if you call or text one of these numbers (from the PEI Government website).
You can report road issues via email, phone, or text message. Staff will use this information to investigate concerns and dispatch crews as needed.
Report provincial road issues via text message by texting the information, photo and/or video to your county road issues text line.
Kings County (902) 200-2122
Queens County (902) 200-6649
Prince County (902) 200-10142. If you happen to be cleaning out your driveway, don’t be a jerk by putting your snow on the road. It’s dangerous and if I’m not mistaken, it’s also illegal. Not to mention the fact that snow plow operators probably want to pummel the morons who do it since it’s essentially making more work for them. Think of it like mopping your floor, only to have an inconsiderate relative walk in with mud all over his boots and walk through your kitchen. Except of course, there’s little chance of someone having an accident. Although if you’re walking across the right person’s freshly mopped floors with muddy boots, you could be having an unfortunate ‘accident’ of another kind.
This morning I drove past at least three people who were pushing their snow onto the road. One particular moron wasn’t just spraying snow onto the road but also onto passing cars as they drove by. I guess having blobs of snow everywhere wasn’t enough to potentially cause an accident, they wanted to blind drivers too.
Of course, if you know the person involved or the house number there’s always the option of calling the police and reporting the incident. Don’t want to seem like a jerk? Try reporting it on Crimestoppers and be an anonymous jerk.
3. When there’s a bad storm and you know of elderly or sick people or vulnerable neighbors (for example, a single mother of young children) you might want to check on them. Chances are they are fine but what if they need help cleaning off their walkway? If they have health problems, are they ok? Do they have enough medication or necessary supplies? If not, is this something you can help them with? Also, remember that stormy weather makes a lot of people anxious for obvious reasons. Feeling trapped in their home, worrying about road conditions, sudden issues with furnaces, plumbing (if pipes freeze) and concerns around power outages can cause a lot of stress. Speaking of which….
4. If the power goes out, call Maritime Electric at 1-800-670-1012. Don’t assume your neighbor did it because she could be assuming you did. Also, she might have her power and it might be an issue outside your own home. If the power is out for any amount of time (think Hurricane Dorian) then it’s even more important to check on those around you who might be vulnerable (see No. 3) Not everyone has a generator and if you happen to have one that is mobile (apparently some are) then maybe someone nearby could use some power to warm up their house, keep their freezer full of food from spoiling and if they have their own pump (as many rural people do) run off some water. A hot cup of coffee is greatly missed when you have no power. Oh, which reminds me….
5. If you live nearby and the power is out and you’re getting a hot coffee, for God Sakes, get me one too!
Australia is burning, a personal account of the catastrophic fires devastating an entire continent
By Robyn Joy Williams
I write as a part time spring-winter resident of Bayview, PEI.
In Australia I usually live in Canberra, Australia’s capital city, located within New South Wales, about three hours drive from the south east coast of Australia. This is a personal account and I am unable to verify statistics.
When we arrived back in Australia in December, the air from Sydney to Canberra was already heavy with smoke from bushfires elsewhere in the country. The country everywhere was tinder dry and desperate for rain, which is not expected for some time. The fires had started in spring, earlier than ever recorded and caught fire authorities by surprise, preventing the usual back burning to clear bushfire fuel. Initially they spread rapidly in northern, old growth forests, in many for the first time, their peat base catching fire readily.
By Dec 19 fires were breaking out all over and a bush drive from Canberra to the coast for a dental appointment was fraught. Although I checked for road closures before I left, fire closed a major part of my route while I was on the road. I was forced to backtrack and detour quite a distance to get to the main highway – and even that was closed beyond my next exit point.
The drive down the windey, narrow, heavily treed Kangaroo Valley road, intensely smoky, was pretty scary because I didn’t know the source of the smoke. I was glued to radio live fire reports the whole way.
On New Year’s Eve, as predicted, weather conditions deteriorated. With intense heat and strong winds, the fires already burning erupted. Fire generated lightening strikes created new fires. By the end of that day, much of the coast of New South Wales and Victoria was on fire – the prime tourist areas of both states – packed with holidaymakers. The fire swept down from the forests and national parks of the Great Dividing Range that runs north south adjacent to the coast, right down to the sea along much of the coast.
Settlement along this coast is mostly in small communities, with small populations, except in tourist season. It is also home for many retirees or those who want to escape the rat race, on bush blocks far from the madding crowd. There are few roads – often there is only one road in and one road out. The old Princes Highway is the only south-north route, picturesque but mostly only two lanes and a regular holiday and weekend bottleneck. It was quickly cut in many places and remains so.
In many coastal communities people survived huddled by the water front or even escaping into the water in boats, while they watched their houses burn. Daytime skies were black and crimson – one “firie” said that from the top of his truck his hand disappeared when he held his arm up. Here in Canberra, three hours distant, the smoke was so intense it was difficult to see the opposite side of the street for three days and it permeated the house, stinging our eyes and throats. It achieved the unenviable status of having the worst air quality of any major city in the world, including Delhi! The accounts of those who faced the fire directly say it came with the roar and force of a freight train, sending hot air, gasses and burning embers over a kilometre ahead of its front. Flames rose 30 metres or more in the air. Experienced fire fighters with a lifetime fighting fires say they have never experienced anything like it. A fireman died when the huge fire truck he was in was literally lifted in the air and rolled by a fire generated whirl wind.
The day after the fires, on New Years Day, conditions eased and while fire fighting went on – many fires still out of control, authorities were able to take stock of damage to lives and property. Over 500 houses for a start, along with farms, orchards, wineries and tourist businesses. Three NSW firefighters had died, others were injured and there were deaths and injuries among those who decided to stay and defend their property. Some small towns were burnt out. Visitors and locals huddled in town centres or waterfronts. The fire had even licked into the larger urban hub of Batemans Bay, an especially popular tourist and retirement centre (population 11,294, outlying areas to 16,500).
With highways blocked, there was no way out, and no way for supplies to get in. Infrastructure had taken a major hit so for much of the coast there was no power, no communications and no water. Supermarket shelves emptied. Tourists were advised to leave ASAP, but there was no way for them to do so. It wasn’t even possible to fly the injured out from small rural hospitals because the smoke was too heavy to let helicopters land.
Since then there have been desperate efforts to get tourists out. Convoys of a hundred cars at a time have been moving at a snail’s pace sandwiched between police cars, stopped intermittently by fire outbreaks, fallen trees and car accidents, either along the north south Princes Highway or via precarious inland routes. A thousand people at the tourist village of Malacoota in Victoria have been taken out by a naval ship, which has also been ferrying supplies – but to go on the naval ship people had to be able to scale a very tall rope ladder up the side of the ship.
Tomorrow, 4 January, horrific conditions have been predicted again. With much of the NSW already burning, not only on the coast but inland, especially around the Snowy Mountains, no-one knows for sure which fire fronts will take off. A State of Emergency has been declared in NSW – again, and in Victoria a State of Disaster has been declared for the first time ever. The Shoalhaven Area of the South Coast, where my own house is (now rented) is 90 per cent bushland and is officially on high high alert. Fires have reached the edge of the suburb adjacent to the suburb where mine is located. One would hope it was sufficiently urban – but nothing is assured! My tenant is prepared, watching alerts and her car is packed, ready to leave. In 2001 a fast moving fire unexpectedly went through our Museum grounds in another Shoalhaven Village, and through the village to the sea front, so I know that anything his possible.
Even here in suburban Canberra we are worried and making plans – we are officially in a State of Alert. The city of approximately 500,000 people and the seat of Australian government (colloquially known as “the bush capital”), is surrounded by tall, eucalyptus covered hills. Canberra itself is very very dry. The only green grass is on top of Parliament House – parks and verges are crisp and golden. There are large areas of trees – a lot of them very flammable trees. Right now there are no immediately threatening fires, but we are watching fires coming up from the south west. It has happened before I moved here that a fire erupted and moved very quickly, wiping out several suburbs. In preparation for the horror day tomorrow – 42 degrees predicted – our fire services that have been out fighting fires in the Snowy Mountain area have been brought back to Canberra. There is a siren going past right now and I am on the alert!
All of this has a political dimension. We have a party in power with a very conservative group dominant. They choose to see all talk of climate change as a Greens’ plot to thwart big business, and the coal industry in particular. They blame the Greens for the fires by the preventing the all important pre-fire season back burning – something the fire services themselves have vehemently contradicted. The line taken by the prime minister about the fires is that this is really business as usual for Australia – that we have always had fires, nothing to worry about, services in place, and so on.
Meanwhile fire service chiefs met with the PM before the season and gave clear warnings. He took a badly timed holiday in Hawaii with his family just as the fire season erupted and he has had trouble catching up with the changing mood of the country ever since. Yesterday, in the small town of Cobargo on the NSW Coast, which lost much of its historic main street, houses and lives, he was heckled and people refused to shake his hand.
Yet, as one commentator said yesterday, he is stuck. Even if he was personally able to modify his stance, it would have little effect unless the dominant very conservative group in his party did the same.
We have only just got through the first month of summer – just at the beginning of bushfire season. The fires are not only in NSW and Victoria – they are also burning in West Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and across the Nullabor, cutting one side of Australia from the other. I heard that the area burnt to date was larger than the size of Holland. So much of the burnt land is National Park land, including the Wollemi National Park where an extraordinary fossil remnant tree, the Wollemi Pine, was discovered just a few years ago. I have no idea how this tree has fared but it is catastrophic for so much flora and fauna. Fire may be natural for Australia – but never before on this scale. It is truly frightening.
Dorian gave us a serious reality check, proving rural PEI isn’t prepared for big storms
By Michelle M Arsenault
A few years ago there was a terrible storm in western PEI. We had no power. We had no landlines. Data for our phones was non-existent and, to top it all off, our cell reception was so poor that even if we had to make a call chances are it wouldn’t have went through. One neighbor commented on how he and his family had just left a Third World country only to come back to a cold house, no phone, no power and when they contacted Maritime Electric, no answers.
This is the reality of living in rural PEI.
Having said that, even in the best conditions our ‘high speed’ internet definitely doesn’t match the internet speed enjoyed by urban dwellers. Having lived most of my adult life in various cities in this country I can honestly say my expectations are pretty high considering the rates are the same.
Cell reception is also poor to terrible regardless of the weather. It’s almost impossible to have a call from my house that doesn’t involve the other party cutting me off mid-sentence with, ‘I can’t hear you, you’re cutting out!’ while other times the call just disconnects completely. I’ve actually made more than one complaint to my provider about this issue, pointing out that in poor weather or if there were an accident it’s pretty frightening to not be able to rely on your phone even working. (Note that the price is also the same in urban and rural areas).
So let’s just throw another problem in the mix, since we’re on a roll. When you live in rural areas a snowstorm can be much more stressful than it is in the city. I know. I’ve lived in both places.
In the city it storms, it’s over, the plows are out, life continues.In the country a storm means you may not get out quite as fast because the plows haven’t reached your area. Also, depending on where you are on PEI, drifting can limit visibility and make the snow plow operator’s job redundant. And what if the power goes out? Do you have a generator? If you have your own pump did you happen to run off water in advance? If you have a generator do you have gas for it?
My biggest concern involves seniors. One lady I often talk to at work was recently commenting about how she has a great deal of concern for her father when it storms. He’s elderly and lives alone and has no heat when the power goes out. He’s also on medication. When the phone lines go down he has no way of communicating. Chances are slim he has plans to get the latest iPhone at this point in the game, and if he did he wouldn’t have reception anyway.After our recent brush with Dorian my fears became stronger. Not to mention the terrible winter we had a few years ago that reduced most of our local roads down to one, very narrow lane. What if there had been an emergency? Could firetrucks and ambulances even get through some of these frighteningly small passages? As for the hurricane, I think many areas in the maritimes were given a stern reality check – that we certainly are not prepared if anything very serious ever hits us. We’ve seen it in other places in the world and said, ‘Those poor people!’ But has it ever occurred to anyone that one day those ‘poor people’ might be us?
Back on the home front, our power randomly went out again a few days ago. I decided that next year I would start recording times and dates when we have power outages. Not to mention reasons. In this past year there have been so many outages that when I mentioned this recent one to a coworker yesterday, he turned to me and said, “Again? Your power is always out!” When I asked a friend, who I grew up with in this area (and currently lives here again), if we experienced this many outages when we were kids, she said, “You know, I really don’t think we did.”
I thought technology was supposed to improve things but yet here we are on the edge of 2020 and I’m not so sure.
I understand that some things can’t be prepared for because we just never know what is around the corner. However, when living in rural PEI has limitations in the best conditions, how are we supposed to weather the worst ones?
Will Cavendish have its own Citizens on Patrol program?
Meeting to gauge interest slated for mid-January
By Jim Brown
It’s hard to imagine a more enchanted part of the country than the home of Anne of Green Gables – the Resort Municipality of Cavendish.
But residents are increasingly anxious their innocence is under assault. And they have good reason for that apprehension.
Cottages have been broken into and in some cases the intruder has lingered for days. Other crimes are also occurring, many in the off-season when the Resort Municipality is sparsely populated.
Chris Robinson wants to know if residents care enough to do something about the crime that is gradually seeping into the community. Chris, a councillor with the Resort Municipality of Cavendish, who chairs the emergency services committee, would like to start a Citizens on Patrol (COP) group in this beloved haunt of tourists everywhere.
“We are planning an evening meeting in mid-January in order to get public input regarding a local Citizens on Patrol program,” he said.
According to an earlier survey 90 per cent of residents believe Cavendish should develop its own COP program. The survey also found 80 per cent of Cavendish residents are concerned about theft, break-ins and minor crime in the area.
“The Neighbourhood Watch volunteer program would be co-ordinated by the RCMP, similar to other existing programs in Stratford and Cornwall,” said Chris.
“This activity is intended to discourage potential petty crime, by providing an increased, watchful presence, with volunteers linked to the RCMP via radio.”
He went on to say suspicious activity will be observed and recorded, but without directly engaging suspects.
Anyone interested in being part of such a program is encouraged fill out a short online survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CWTSSQX
Cavendish Citizens on Patrol Survey
To better understand local Cavendish residents’ wishes regarding the possible development of a volunteer Citizens on Patrol Program, please answer each of the following questions by selecting the most appropriate response.
Anyone wishing to attend the January meeting is encouraged to contact him directly by email at email@example.com get their official invitation and background information.
His proposal was discussed at the Resort Municipality’s monthly council meeting on Dec 9 and accepted. It is expected RCMP will also attend the one hour meeting to offer their expertise.
Fyfe family finally gets new home, replacing the historic farmhouse lost to fire last winter
Story and photos by Jim Brown
There was a stir of excitement in Stanley Bridge on Nov 22 when the Fyfe family’s new home was delivered to their homestead on St Mary’s Road.
The beautiful home, transported by Waugh’s Construction, came nine months after their farmhouse was destroyed in a fire.
Karen and Alfred Fyfe, their daughter Michelle and Michelle’s fiancé Kristen Rochford were lucky to escape from their 190-year-old farmhouse when it caught fire on Feb 20.
The historic farmhouse was older than Confederation but was reduced to ashes in minutes.
On Nov 22 they finally got to see their new home, hoisted from a large flatbed trailer onto its foundation by Tim’s Crane Service of Charlottetown.
The three-bedroom, two bathroom home, with a porch and a large living space, was purchased from PEI Low Energy Homes. The energy efficient home was constructed in Hangar 9 in Slemon Park. Michelle said there is a big demand for the company’s homes and she’s heard they were booked until spring, 2021.
Even with the delivery and installation their wait isn’t quite over yet, said Michelle.
“As far as a move-in date for us, it’s a waiting game now as we need power and water and a septic hook up.”
Michelle said the community has been very supportive.
Thanks to their neighbours’ generosity Michelle and Kristen were able to continue working on the family farm, which was largely spared by the fire.
In the weeks and months since the blaze Michelle and Kristen were able to find lodging from generous neighbours Leslie MacKay and Frances Coburn. But they were happy to finally get a new home to call their own.
Alfred Fyfe, left and Kris Rochford, second from right, were joined by several friends and family members as they watched the Fyfe family's new home placed on its foundation on Nov 22.
Alfred Fyfe, left and Kris Rochford, second from right, were joined by several friends and family members as they watched the Fyfe family's new home placed on its foundation on Nov 22.
The new Fyfe home was delivered and installed nine months after a devastating fire claimed a 190-year-old farmhouse.
He’s rolling up his sleeves to save a Hunter River landmark
By Jim Brown
One of Hunter River’s most celebrated, and neglected, landmarks is getting a new lease on life.
For the past couple of weeks Kris Taylor, owner of The Harmony House Theatre with his wife Melanie, has been busy tearing up the inside of the former St Mary’s of the People Church in a bid to preserve a big part of Hunter River’s history.
The church was decommissioned more than a decade ago and later acquired by a succession of owners, the last one an Ontario buyer.
Nobody could decide what to do with it and so it continued its decline.
That’s when Kris stepped in and bought the former church through an Island realtor.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and I just couldn’t imagine driving over that hill and seeing this thing gone,” he said.
“It’s a heritage building. Obviously we have to take the steeples off and that kind of thing, but the bones of the building will stay,” said Kris.
“I want to save it. It’s a great asset to the community. I still think it’s got a lot of life in it.”
It’s his building now and he isn’t quite sure what he will do with it after he completes the necessary renovations.
But in the meantime, it won’t fall into further disrepair.
“I was in the first time over the last year trying to see what was going on. The previous owner let me in and we talked about things,” said Kris.
“The pews were gone, there’s no records, it’s basically an empty building. This is all a fake ceiling too. Once this comes out, it’s 60 feet in the air.”
He said one of the possibilities he’s considering is converting the building to apartments, but he isn’t ready to make that commitment yet.
“Everybody knows we have a housing crisis on PEI so whether or not this can be turned into apartments, we’ll find out.”
In any case it will take roughly two years of hard work to get everything done.
In the meantime in the weeks and months ahead, he’s on his own.
After that he will bring workers in to accelerate the renovations.
This is not exactly new ground for Kris and his wife Melanie and their family.
They converted the decommissioned Hunter River United Church (built in 1846) into the popular Harmony House Theatre.
The family has a deep connection to the former Hunter River United Church, with Kris and his wife married there and three of their four children baptized in the church.
Melanie described her husband’s devotion to the former United Church in an essay posted to the Harmony House Theatre’s website.
“He (Kris) pays such close attention to detail with every choice in building materials and always has his eyes and ears peeled for must the right beam and structure that he thinks will enhance his ‘work of art’. Kris is an experienced home builder, pharmacist (and) musician…and an artist who likes to paint using oils on canvas.”
Kris estimates by the time the work is completed on the former St Mary’s of the People Church he will have sunk $500,000 and perhaps more into the renovations.
But this isn’t something he isn’t used to.
“The doctor’s office on the corner was a huge project as well. We had to get a moving company in to move it 30 feet from the corner so we could have better lines of sight at the Stop sign, and that was the only way to save that building.”
In the St Mary’s of the People project he’s working with roughly 4,000 sq feet on the main floor and there’s also a 19-foot ceiling and “a huge attic…so there’s an immense amount of space in here.”
Kris says he doesn’t have a strict timetable.
“This building is going to take a lot of money. For me anything I’ve ever done, construction wise, has not been on a clock. It’s been what does the building need and how long is it going to take to do it right and economically?”
And it wouldn’t be a surprise to many if this wasn’t his last project in Hunter River.
A ladder leading to a part of the roof Kris Taylor was working on. He hasn't hired any tradesmen yet to help him.
After five decades, aquarium closes in Stanley Bridge
Too much fresh water in the wells, too many restrictions on fish species
By Jim Brown
For the first time since it opened in 1971, under previous owners Elmer and Hilda Fyfe, Stanley Bridge does not have an aquarium for tourists to visit.
Carr’s Oyster Bar, where the Marine Aquarium is based, has several dry tanks and no fish to swim in them.
The aquarium was shut down at the end of September, as is done every year at the end of the tourist season. But this time it won’t re-open.
“Every year we apply for our license, there’s more and more restrictions on the fish we can hold,” said Phyllis Carr, owner of Carr’s Oyster Bar, which is celebrating its 20th season in business.
A special license from the Department of Fisheries is needed to stock the tanks.
“It’s getting to the point where it’s too complicated to apply for the license to carry fish that are going to be interesting for display,” said Phyllis.
“We used to have harbor seals, we used to have wolffish and ling, but now there are so many restrictions that there are fewer and fewer fish we’re allowed to hold.”
At its height the aquarium had 12 tanks filled with fish, but the number of tanks had dwindled to just four in recent years.
“This year we did have cod, we did have flatfish or American plaice. We had rock eels and an (American) eel,” she said.
The DFO licensing requirements are getting tighter every year because fish species she used to carry are under increasing threat.
Also, a private salt water well drawing water from New London Bay and used to fill the tanks has become ‘too fresh’ to hold fish without hurting their health.
“Maybe we’re getting more fresh water running from somewhere. It was up until the last couple of years a really good salt water well but it’s definitely changing. And one of the fish companies who tried to drill another salt water well right next to us came out too fresh (also). And that was for a fish plant,” she said.
Could it be something happening in the environment, perhaps?
“We don’t really know why,” added Phyllis, adding they’ve had problems with their pump, which was breaking down.
“We put our pump down three times and we don’t know what’s stopping it from working, whether there’s something coming in from through the lines that’s causing it to break down.”
The aquarium has lost its allure for several years now due to DFO restrictions.
Fortunately, the Manor of Birds next to the aquarium has been growing in popularity.
“When people come in here and realize that we have 750 mounted birds back there they can’t believe it. It’s one of the largest collections in the world and it’s not being focused on enough. That’s something we have to improve on,” said Phyllis.
“Most of them come out amazed there’s that many in there. There’s probably one other place in the world with a collection that size.”
In addition to birds, Carr’s also has dozens of stuffed large animals including bears, cougers, white-tailed deer, coyotes and foxes, as well as 14 cases filled with mounted butterflies from around the world.
On the day of the interview an entire busload of cruise ship passengers visited the gift shop and wildlife rooms.
Phyllis feels a twinge of sadness about the aquarium, originally stocked with fish by legendary local angler Tommy Gallant, who was her dad. Tommy Gallant passed away several years ago.
“When I started he was getting the fish for us. My uncle Leonard worked here, my brothers worked here, looking after the seals back in the day and my kids grew up with this place and the aquarium – their whole life. They were involved with the seals and the fish, putting them in the water and even my grandson (was involved). I have a picture of him helping dad take the fish out of the back of the truck and put them in the tanks,” said Phyllis
“Its sad for me and for everyone in the family.”
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You may not recognize the Resort Municipality in two decades
By Jim Brown
In 2016, the most recent year for which Statistics Canada figures are available, the Resort Municipality of Cavendish experienced a big surge in population, with the enchanted tourist destination growing by an astonishing 23 per cent. That vastly outpaced the provincial growth rate of 1.93 per cent.
It’s probably a safe bet to assume population growth was at least in the double digit range for 2018 and 2019.
Still, there were just 350 private dwellings in Cavendish in 2016 and 328 people living in them. Of the 350 private dwellings only 39 per cent were occupied by full-time residents.
At the swell of the tourist season the population balloons to more than 10,000, largely due to a flood of seasonal residents.
Residents in the Resort Municipality also tend to be older and richer, with a much higher percentage of households earning six figure incomes than the rest of the province. The Resort Municipality leads in six of the eight highest earning income categories, starting from $40,000.
Another somewhat startling statistic is that the Resort Municipality has a much more transient population, according to Statistics Canada information.
Approximately a third of full-time residents have moved to the Resort Municipality over the past five years – coming largely from outside PEI.
With so much change going on what will the Resort Municipality of Cavendish look like in 20 years? Will someone living today even recognize it if they were transported two decades into the future?
A strategic planning process is underway – called Our Next 20 Years – and although it has mostly flown under the radar, it can’t help but be controversial at some point in the near future.
At a public information session on Oct 10 fewer than 20 participants, led by consultants Emily Brooks and Ian Watson, grappled with some of the tough decisions that will have to be made – and long before the 20 years is up.
“You can never know if something is coming right at you. You can envision it all you want,” said one participant, Resort Municipality councillor Arnold Smith.
“When you look ahead for the long term you’ve got coastal erosion, you’ve got transportation (challenges) and you’ve got infrastructure (with sewer and water services),” he said.
“Where is the next group of people coming from? Because the people who came to Cavendish years ago…all wanted Anne and they all wanted the lobster suppers and they had these preconceived notions.”
People arriving now and into the future may not share those values, and may not be aware of the community’s history and culture.
A few years ago everyone thought the Resort Municipality would be dotted from one end to another with wind turbines, and now there is a NIMBY-style backlash against them.
Camping in the PEI National Park, for instance, has been transformed recently with cottage style tents called “Tentics” that are permanent looking A-frame buildings with wooden floors that can be disassembled like tents.
Things can happen in an instant said one participant, noting Hurricane Dorian destroyed 80 per cent of trees in the national park in less than a day.
At the same time one Resort Municipality councillor, George Clark-Dunning, said changing bylaws and issuing building permits for new motels and gas bars can take a long time.
You need a plan, a back-up plan in case that doesn’t work out and likely a back-up plan for the back-up plan. And still change can throw a lot of that planning out the window.
How do you prepare for washouts, for the loss of valuable ocean front property when waters rise as a result of climate change? asked Clark-Dunning.
If the Gulf Shore Road completely disintegrates and washes into the ocean, how do people get to their homes, since much of the land is owned by Parks Canada?
A growing trend involves building apartment buildings for people who want to downsize, especially seniors.
Clark-Dunning pointed to developer Jason Peters beautiful, well-maintained building in North Rustico that caters to older people who have downsized their lives, including those who have moved here from far afield.
“Why aren’t any of those buildings in Cavendish?” he asked.
He got some pushback, however.
One older resident said many people who moved to Cavendish came for the rural, laid-back lifestyle and the uncongested space.
“I think just by the nature of living in a community that has so much – you have Parks Canada, you have people coming from all over the world – you haven’t had this fixed, unchanging place for many, many generations,” said Emily Brooks.
“It’s always been evolving, based on your own actions and the things that have happened that you didn’t foresee. I actually think that is an incredible place to be when you’re thinking about the future. I think you are fortunate to have that framework for understanding.”
Arnold Smith observed just a few years ago warming centres were not even in the conversation, since homes often had a second source of heat such as a wood stove.
Those stoves were reliable and always a good source of heat in emergencies, but now electricity has supplanted wood stoves and when the electricity is disrupted by a storm people are left in the lurch unless they have a generator or can get to a warming centre.
Monster storm takes a heavy toll
Photos by Jim Brown
At the time these photos were posted (Wednesday, Sept 11, four days after Hurricane Dorian arrived) thousands of Islanders, including many in the Stanley Bridge, New London, Kensington, Hunter River, Cavendish and North Rustico area, were still without power. Fortunately, it appears no Islanders were killed or injured.
It will be left for historians and meteorologists to determine if Hurricane Dorian, which at its peak blasted parts of Island with wind gusts of over 160 km an hour, will be remembered as the most devastating storm ever to hit PEI. But it’s safe to say nobody escaped its fury, with homes, trees, bridges, barns, businesses and crops everywhere damaged and destroyed by water and wind. And there is a grim warning for all of us – as the waters off our shores get warmer due to the effects of climate change, we can only expect storms such as Hurricane Dorian, and perhaps even worse ones, to strike more frequently.
Gunn's Bridge was closed to traffic, but not to anglers on foot, after Hurricane Dorian caused extensive damage.
It was an older barn near Cavendish that was no longer in use and it was likely going to be torn down anyway, but Hurricane Dorian likely hastened its demise by taking a big gouge out of the barn's roof. It was originally built in 1924, on land eventually purchased by Ron Toombs.
Rustico fisherman Ross Gauthier was still without power at his house on Sept 10, so he decided to head to the wharf and get his gear ready for next lobster season.
Stanley Bridge wharf took the brunt of Hurricane Dorian's fury, with boats, walkways, buildings and rock walls suffering serious damage.
Stanley Bridge Harbour, including at least one vessel and a number of buildings, suffered substantial damage during the hurricane.
Maritime Electric employees faced challenging work throughout the week trying to untangle falling trees from power lines.
A large poplar crashed into the home of Kerry MacDougall and her husband on Saturday, Sept 8. The couple and their dogs escaped injury.
"It was quite a loud bang" at 9.30 pm on the evening of Sept 8, says French River resident Kerry McDougall, joined by her dogs Finley and Riley. She and her husband were shocked to find an enormous poplar, more than 70 feet long, had crashed into a corner of their home, spreading its limbs like tentacles across much of the deck.
French River resident Hughena Duggan is barely visible behind the branches, limbs and foliage of a fallen tree that barely missed her home's roof. She and her husband Jim estimated more than half a dozen trees fell near their home, including one that missed Jim's car by just a couple of feet.
French River resident Hughena Duggan is surrounded by limbs and branches from a fallen tree that had draped itself over her porch.
A family visiting the New London wharf is greeted with a shocking scene of destruction. Fortunately, their vessel didn't appear to be seriously damaged by heavy winds and rain.
Cavendish appeared to take the brunt of Hurricane Dorian's fury, with an estimated 80 per cent of trees in the PEI National Park downed by the storm's high winds. Many others outside the park were also toppled.
Japanese princess thrilled to visit home of Anne of Green Gables
Story and photos by Jim Brown
Japanese princess Takamado was in Cavendish Aug 28, the home of Anne of Green Gables, to officially open the Montgomery Park and to unveil a new statue dedicated to Anne’s creator, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Hundreds of people assembled for the special event, sheltered from the bright sun by a large tent. Her visit also celebrated Canada’s 90 years of diplomatic relations with Japan.
Guests at the park’s opening included PEI Lieut. Governor Antoinette Perry, Malpeque MP Wayne Easter, Island Senator Mike Duffy and Education and Climate Change Minister Brad Trivers, MLA for Rustico-Emerald.
Princess Takamado, international patron of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Institute, was greeted with loud applause as she rose to speak.
“The novels of Miss Montgomery have managed to capture the imagination of so many people around the world and Anne of Green Gables has continued to give hope and encouragement to many.
“It’s universal appeal has bridged many cultural and linguistic differences over the years and today, when the world is subject to so much divisiveness, this homage to Lucy Maud Montgomery is most timely and relevant. I take this opportunity to thank PEI for the legendary Island hospitality with which you welcome visitors from Japan.”
Princess Takamado went on to say: “This is the 90th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, I think we may say that we differ physically Canada and Japan are indeed kindred spirits.”
Gloria Gray holds a framed photograph of Lucy Maud Montgomery, which she circulated among guests, seeking their autographs to commemorate Princess Takamado's visit to Cavendish.
George Clark-Dunning, a councillor with the Resort Municipality of Cavendish, helps Princess Takamado plant a cherry tree on the site of the newly opened Montgomery Park
Hundreds of Islanders and a large delegation from Japan, including Princess Takamado, attended the opening ceremonies of the new Montgomery Park on Aug 28.
Kate MacDonald Butler, a grand-daughter of LM Montgomery and Jennie McNeill, from one of PEI's most celebrated families, who helped preserve the timeless legacy of Lucy Maud Montgomery, unveiled a new statue to the famous author.
Wendell MacDonald, of Mayfield, known widely as Mr Canada for his brightly coloured Canada-themed attire, was one of hundreds of attendees at the official opening of Montgomery Park.
Princess Takamado and PEI Lieut. Governor Antoinette Perry stand next to a newly unveiled statue of Lucy Maud Montgomery, "A Glimpse of Beauty", created by Summerside artist Grace Curtis.
Princess Takamado next to the newly unveiled "A Glimpse of Beauty" statue, the inspiration of Summerside artist Grace Curtis.
Dozens of people lined up to greet Princess Takamado at the conclusion of the Montgomery Park's opening ceremonies.
Princess Takamado faced a crush of admirers young and old at the official opening of Montgomery Park.
Are we reaching the limits of growth in Cavendish?
Story and photos by Jim Brown
Beautifully contoured farmland mingled with picturesque cottages, glistening ponds and streams, ocean-lapped beaches, inviting woods, emerald green golf courses, and a long list of attractions, restaurants and souvenir stores. It all blends together into a wholesome, family-friendly package that is the envy of tourist destinations everywhere. And, just after the last traces of snow have left and before the hordes of tourists have arrived, dozens of lobster boats hit the waters from the port of North Rustico for the start of the spring lobster fishery.
But it could have easily gone another way, perhaps turned into a Coney Island, “Shoot The Freak” show, with sweaty, leather-lunged barkers screaming at passerby to fire their paintguns at a costumed, heavily padded “Freak” dashing back and forth behind a chain fence and surrounded by graffiti blighted rubble.
There is a wonderful trippiness to much of Cavendish proper and the resort municipality, with business operators not quite sure what to think of what an incredible abundance of good fortune and good stewardship over several decades has brought them. Go big on Anne of Green Gables and the straw hats? Or maybe the Cavendish Beach Music Festival and the tens of thousands of country music fans, some of whom may not be sober for much of the three days of performances? Or maybe add another half dozen or so naturalist resorts to the one tucked down a rarely travelled side road, away from prying eyes? Maybe go wall-to-wall Niagara Falls with the tackiness and the chintz and slot machines and the not-quite-ready-for-Vegas acts?
What to make of the Resort Municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish and North Rustico?
If you are among the 50 or so businesspeople and officials from all three levels of government attending the spring general meeting of Tourism Cavendish Beach Inc, you want the good times and years of record visits to roll on. But there is that niggling worry about the implications of unrestrained growth.
If you attended the meeting at the Cavendish Destination Centre on May 7 you heard about the troubling shortages of cooks and cleaners as well as other seasonal workers. You likely wouldn’t have been reassured by what you heard from guest speakers who basically warned those shortages will not ease any time soon.
An immigration official from Charlottetown confirmed what many nodding business owners already knew – it can cost upwards of $1,000 in fees and other expenses to hire temporary foreign workers.
That same immigration official said at any one time one billion people around the world were considering moving to Canada. Not that it helps tourist operators desperate for help in Canada’s smallest province.
You may have also have heard Canada, like many other industrialized countries, is getting older and there are fewer young folks around to pay the taxes that will sustain the country’s comprehensive social welfare system. Right now there are four workers for every retiree, but by 2030 that number will fall to just two. Canada’s low birthrate places this country 81st in the world in terms of fertility and that’s not a good place to be.
Where are the families with the screaming kids wanting to go to the Sandspit or the Cavendish Tourist Mart or that place that sells beavertails going to come from in the near future, if not Canada? Let’s hope worldwide travel continues to grow at a record rate and that Ottawa is smart enough to boost immigration numbers.
As an observer it was fascinating watching the polite pushback granting agency officials got from some tourist operators when they suggested ways to extend the summer tourism season into the fall, winter and early spring.
It’s easily to imagine a few dozen eyebrows going up at the same time.
Let us count the ways that could be problematic, including boosting advertising budgets to chase potentially fewer people while incurring more costs to provide additional product, and did I mention the problems encountered hiring workers?
There was something else that garnered a fair bit of discussion. The strategy of leaning on “travel influencers” to generate buzz about a locale. Newspapers and magazines, though still important in drawing visitors, are so late 20th century.
That guy or gal with flak jacket, press badge and camera as long as your arm is no longer ‘King of the Walk’.
Now you got kids who can draw hundreds of thousands of eyeballs to a single post, even if it is littered with typos and grammatical errors.
I can just imagine members of the Khardashian family dropping a few words and images on their Twitter and Instagram feeds in a bid to steer a sizable chunk of their millions of followers to Cavendish.
And, considering there are 800 or more cottages in the resort municipality, do we really need any more? Do we really want to encourage massive new development that strains the community’s resources and changes everything we love about Cavendish?
It reminds me of that old expression from the Vietnam War era, “We had to destroy the village to save it.”
At the spring session one speaker noted in Venice, Italy local residents were advised to stay indoors as much as possible during high season to avoid the huge crush of selfie-taking tourists trampling on everything in sight. Headlines blare about how tourism has “destroyed” Venice. One of the most beautiful cities in the world, steeped in history and culture, is rapidly depopulating. Venice’s population is less than a third of what it was in the early 1950s, with many residents fleeing to escape the suffocating tide of tourists. Real estate has soared in value, making it harder for people who actually call Venice home to find affordable housing, and things only got worse when cruise ships dropped anchor in Venice’s famous canals.
One of the world’s most famous cities was always sinking under relentless attack from the sea, but global warming and the tourist invasion haven’t helped.
Cavendish gets as many as 500,000 visitors during the summer even as its population swells from 250 full time residents to about 10,000 or so when seasonal residents, including Americans and mainland Canadians, return to their cottages. Imagine how truly wretched things would become if the resort municipality got even 10 per cent of the 28 million or so visitors Venice gets annually?
Would they also mount protests against the threatening hordes as Venetians have done?
Let’s hope it never comes to that.