Bridgewater Bulletin Feature
Presented on this web site with permission of Lighthouse Publishing
The Mahone Islands Conservation Association is seeking suport in their effort to raise the necessary funds to purchase Andrews Island and place it in public ownership.
by Robert Hirtle firstname.lastname@example.org
MAHONE BAY --
Over the past decade, an increasing number of Mahone Bay's 365 islands have changed ownership, coming into the possession of individuals who chose to put an end to what had in some cases been generations of public access to their shores.
This became a major concern for many area residents who, after years of being allowed to utilize the islands for recreational purposes, now were finding "no trespassing" signs in locations they once freely frequented.
A number of informal meetings were held by area residents in the late 1990s to consider ways of addressing the problem.
In March of 2003 about 200 people turned out at St. James' Anglican Church hall for a meeting called to address the issue, and the Mahone Islands Conservation Association (MICA) officially became a reality.
That initial gathering gained a favourable response from the public, who supported the group's mandate of the protection and conservation of the islands and shoreline of Mahone Bay, as well as the traditional social and recreational opportunities valued by its various communities.
From the beginning the organization set an objective of achieving public ownership of at least some of Mahone Bay's islands as their number 1 priority, a lofty goal considering the skyrocketing price of oceanfront property.
This past fall, however, a mere 18 months after their formation, MICA's executive took a giant step toward that objective when they made their first-ever
Andrews Island is a 20-acre pearl situated in Mahone Harbour east of Strum Island and about one-half kilometre off the shores of the mainland community of Oakland.
"We've done our homework, we've had the island appraised [and] we've had a title search completed," he said. "So it's not picking things out of a hat."
Since that time, representatives of the 450-member strong committee have been working diligently to raise the necessary funding, either in cash or pledges, to complete the deal.
"We have thus far solicited our membership and we are just in the beginning stages of going on a corporate pledge campaign," said association vice-chairman Dale Rafuse. "We've made some progress, but we are still short of our goal."
Over the past several months the association has been lobbying various levels of government for financial assistance, receiving a pledge last July from the Municipality of Lunenburg in an amount just over $18,000 before the offer on Andrews Island was made public.
"The message we had from the provincial government was that if you take the initiative and garner grass roots support, then we will back the project," Mr. Ernst said, adding that some of their representatives have told him they feel there is not presently enough Crown land in coastal areas of the province.
"We're meeting with [Provincial Justice Minister] Michael Baker the beginning of February and saying look, this is what we've done, where we are right now, now it's time for the government to make a substantial financial commitment."
Mr. Ernst said the group is now taking its appeal for funding to the general public, particularly those individuals who stand to benefit from the island natural state, such as recreational boaters, shoreline property owners and tourist businesses.
"To that end we are having a presence at the Halifax Boat Show... on the l7th to the 20th of February," he said. "It's another way of saying to people, you use the area, it's a privilege for you, what are you going to do to honour that privilege."
Mr. Ernst said it is unlikely the island will be donated to a conservation organization, as they are only interested if the land has ecological significance. He said that does not appear to be the case, although an ecological appraisal has never been carried out on the property.
"So, we're working under different criteria, and recreational significance is nothing to them," he added.
Although the association is well into the throes of fundraising for their first purchase, that has not stopped them from also putting a bid on Backman Island which is situated just off Second Peninsula.
All contributions in support of MICA, including those made toward the purchase of Andrews and other islands, are tax deductible.
More information, including pledge forms, is available on-line at
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