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Bridgewater Bulletin
October 12, 2005

Andrews Island deal complete
by Robert Hirtle

Andrews Island Deal Complete
From left, Nova Scotia Minister of Natural Resources Richard Hurlburt;
Mahone Islands Conservation Association members John Meisner,
Sherrill Harrison, and Michael Ernst; and Nova Scotia Justice Minister
Michael Baker are all smiles following the announcement that Andrews
Island has been purchased for the people of Nova Scotia.
photo: Robert Hirtle

MAHONE BAY -- Pie in the sky.
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary describes it as "an extravagant promise, unlikely to be fulfilled."

According to Michael Ernst, chairman of the Mahone Islands Conservation Association (MICA). It is also the general response members of his group received when they first broached the idea that the public could raise the necessary funds to purchase shoreline properties in Mahone Bay in order to preserve them from future development.

Now, two and a half years after Mr.Ernst first floated the idea to a gathering of over 200 skeptical local residents at MICA's inaugural meeting, the pie is no longer in the sky, and their dream has become a reality.

Last Thursday a crowd of about 75 MICA gathered at St. James' parish hall in Mahone Bay where the group's first public meeting took place in March of 2003, to hear Nova Scotia Minister of Natural Resources Richard Hurlburt announce that Andrews Island had been purchased by the province.

The 20-acre jewel, which has been owned by the Andrews family since the 1860s, was originally listed at $900,000 but the, family reached a deal with MICA last fall to sell the property for its appraised value of $620,000.

After agreeing on the price, the association made a proposal to the provincial government seeking financial support, and a deal was struck which would see the province pay $520,000 of the purchase price with MICA having to raise the $100,000 balance.

Although sufficient funds were not available in this year's provincial budget, the Andrews family agreed to accept half of the province's contribution now and the balance next year.

Calling it "a great day for Nova Scotians," Mr. Hurlburt said the deal would not have been possible without the vision, hard work and dedication" of the MICA membership, the efforts of Justice Minister Michael Baker, who made sure that this file did not slip through the cracks," and the co-operation of the Andrews family who had "the patience to wait for government to work and to work with MICA ... to make today a reality."

He said the unique idea should be viewed as "a lever to move us ahead in this province.

Co-operation with community groups such as MICA is, I think, tremendous for our government," he said, adding the province "wants to secure as much coastal property as we possibly can."

The minister said the department's budget for purchasing land last year was increase to $1.5 million from $1 million, and future acquisitions of property through similar community partnerships would be welcome "as funds become available to my department.

"We're the second smallest Crown land base in Canada and we want to improve those numbers," he said.

Mr. Ernst called the purchase a "major project" for the asscociation and said that although the past 30 months "has been one heck of a ride, it's not been an easy one."

Because of MICA"s efforts, however, "Andrews Island will always belong to the people of Nova Scotia. "You will be able to land on it, sail by it, look at it and know that you own part of that island," he said, adding that the group already has its sights set on another possible purchase.

"Maybe next time we'll be meeting again to discuss the acquisition of Bachman Island," he said.

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