2009 Year in Review

Staff ~ The Amherst Citizen
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2009 Year in Review

Cumberland County -


In a year-end interview Cumberland County Warden Keith Hunter discussed some of the highlights of 2008, with the UNESCO world heritage site designation of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs at the top of his list. Following closely behind the story of Joggins, Hunter had the new P-12 school being announced for Oxford as a highlight, as well as the county and four towns coming to 15-year fire protection services agreements.

The Cumberland Community Transportation Service Society acquired a new $90,000 accessible bus, and board members of the new organization, including Paul Hill, Barry Patriquin, Dora Fuller and Lois Wightman were among those welcoming its arrival. The bus was expected to begin serving rural parts of Cumberland County later in January.

Haggis, bagpipes and all things Scottish were celebrated at the Cumberland County Museum's first-ever Robbie Burns Day luncheon. The museum celebrated the event (normally marked on Jan. 25) early on Jan. 17 with a busy afternoon of activities including a meal by popular chef and Burns enthusiast Howard Spence, music, readings and an exhibit.

Todd Benson, tobacco reduction strategy coordinator for the Cumberland Health Authority, said smoking not only kills people from cancer, but is also the number one cause of preventable house fire deaths in Canada. National Non-Smoking Week activities included visits to businesses to share information about the authority's stop smoking programs and the benefits of the Canadian Cancer Society's smokers helpline.

Wallace Bay smelt fisherman Billy Allen said this year's catches have improved greatly from recent seasons where fighting bitter cold to check and set the nets would yield only about 20-pounds of fish. Allen set his nets on Jan. 7, about a week later than the previous winter, when the thickness of the ice permitted him to set up by the end of December. During the first couple weeks of smelt fishing this year, every day he was bringing in about 100-pounds of the popular winter catch.


Thanks to some government funding, Ski Wentworth was planning $3.2 million worth of upgrades this summer. The announcement was made on Feb. 2 in preparation for the Canada Winter Games being held in Nova Scotia on Feb. 11-27, 2011. Ski Wentworth general manager Leslie Wilson said they had been working with the host society for several months in terms of the upgrades and were very excited when the announcement was made official.

The amplified roar of almost 100 snowmobiles revving up and excited chatter from thousands of spectators filled the air at the annual Sutherland's Lake Trail Groomer Association's fourth annual ice drag races. Most races only took a matter of seconds for the participants to cross the finish line 660 feet away, some going upwards of 125 miles per hour. Organizers estimated 2,000 spectators enjoyed the day's festivities.

Duck identification was one of numerous programs offered to young waterfowl enthusiasts at the annual Ducks Unlimited (DU) Greenwing Camp, which was held from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 near Stuttgart, Arkansas, U.S.A. Fifteen-year-old Wallace youth Ben Cottrill was selected to attend the event after being one of two 2008 DU Canada Great Greenwing Adventure campers that received the Danielle Lewis Greenwing Award.

A lesson in gambling was what Grade Seven to Grade 12 students at River Hebert District High School received on Feb. 17 when the Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) presented House of Cards, a drama about youth gambling. A non-profit organization, RGC is sponsored by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation to eliver a message to students about the risks of gambling and where help is attainable for those who may be addicted to gambling.


Walt Jones had never littered, and vowed to never do so in the future by becoming one of hundreds of people to sign a pledge posted online by the provincial Department of Environment. The Amherst resident became the 443rd person to jump on board with the new anti-littering campaign launched by the department, in response to a survey that revealed Nova Scotians were littering 21 per cent more than they were in 2004.

Brief power outages can be inconvenient, but three days without power is another story. Just ask the people living in North Shore communities like Tidnish. From 6 p.m. on the evening of Monday, March 2, until about 6 p.m. on the evening of Thursday, March 5, residents here went without electricity due to the ice storm that knocked down trees and power lines across most of Cumberland County. The community centre was open for the duration of the outage, and about 50 people took advantage of its heat, water and amenities.

After gaining international recognition last year, the Joggins Fossil Cliffs launched into 2009 with some recognition from their peers at the Central Nova Tourist Association (CNTA.) The Joggins Fossil Cliffs and Centre received the 2008 Attraction of the Year Award at the CNTA's annual awards banquet held in Truro, adding another feather to the cap of Cumberland County's World Heritage Site. Terri McCulloch of Parrsboro and Hans Christian Jost of Malagash were also honoured at the event.

Vera Furlong was not used to the bright lights of television, but passing her history on to future generations was a small price to pay for the 86-year-old Shinimicas woman. Furlong, who is a descendant of the founder of Oxford, Richard Thompson, was one of more than 40 Cumberland County residents featured on a series of DVDs produced by the Cumberland Geological Society withy support from the federal New Horizons for Seniors Program.


If you're ever stranded in the woods and need to build a fire, having a 4-H club member by your side would be beneficial. That fact was proven at the 4-H woodsman qualifier held last Saturday outside Oxford Regional High School. About 30 competitors sawed wood, built fires and ran an obstacle course in an attempt to qualify for the provincials. It was all part of the annual Cumberland County 4-H Spring Rally.

Less than two years after falling tantalizingly short of reaching the summit Argentina's Aconcagua, Amherst lawyer David Christie was at it again as he prepared to leave for the Himalayas and a 17,600-foot trek to the base camp for Mount Everest. Christie left for Nepal and Kathmandu on April 25, from here his group was to begin its ascent to base camp four days later.

A new initiative saw Cumberland County's art students trading their work like hockey cards. The artist trading cards project had all seven Chignecto Family high schools participating in the creative, collaborative project - the first of its kind in the area. The completed cards were mounted on two display boards, circulated throughout county schools, and then returned to the students, but each student received a different card than the one they designed.

Jason Blanch and Woody Thompson set out with five friends to experience the River Philip on a recent weekend, and experience it they did. What was planned as a morning adventure along the river on April 4 turned dangerous when three of the group ended up in the frigid water after upsetting a canoe and a kayak. The paddlers made it to safety, but their boats washed down the river and were not recovered.


For 23 years beef farmers have looked forward to the Border Classic Beef Show and Sale as a place to showcase their industry. They didn't disappoint over the April 25 weekend, auctioning off 16 steers valued at over $56,000 while raising another $10,000 for the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax. This year's event had added meaning in that it was held in honour of longtime supporter, Jim "Tex" McInnis, who participated in the show from its formation and was an active contributor in the Border Classic.

Learning and updating their skills is a constant process in the firefighting community, and, last weekend, 70 firefighters converged on Oxford to participate in the Cumberland County Firefighter Association's annual spring workshop. New equipment, new building materials and new ways carmakers assemble their products were just a few of the new updates the firefighters learned about.

The funding was in place and the sod was turned for a new state-of-the-art fire hall for the Pugwash Volunteer Fire Department. Firefighters were hoping to be in the new building by the end of 2009, concluding years of planning, fundraising and building support from the community and levels of government. The new hall was to be located across from the old Hillcrest Restaurant and Motel, a move from the previous location in the middle of the village, next to the Co-Op.

Three neighbours in Williamsdale - Muriel Purdy, Susie Ripley and Garnet Rushton - all turned 90 within a month of each other, and celebrated together at a community open house at the Collingwood community hall on Saturday, May 23. The neighbours have not only lived near each other in the area since the 1940s, they have also been active in their community. All three still get out and about, and Muriel remains the organist at Millvale United Church, a role she has handled for the past 45 years.

Bicycling tourism is big business in many parts of Nova Scotia and there's no reason Cumberland County can't catch up and become a cycling hotbed. That was the message Peter Williams of Halifax's Eastwind Cycle brought to an audience of bike enthusiasts, business people and government and tourism officials at the Joggins Fossil Centre. As part of a comprehensive cycling program for the province, which includes both rural and urban riding, Williams pointed to several rides in Cumberland County that would attract cyclists.


The idea of a walking trail from Cape George to Cape Chignecto was not a new one, but many in this part of the province were not familiar with it until it was formally introduced with supporters coming on board and a public meeting held at the Oxford Lions Hall on June 17. The proposed trail would stretch over about 450 km from Cape George in Antigonish County to Cape Chignecto Provincial Park in Cumberland County, using a network if new and existing trails.

The winds of change blew through Cumberland County just as they did the rest of the province, as Cumberland North elected an NDP MLA for the first time in the June 9 provincial election. Retired federal civil servant Brian Skabar made history in the riding, defeating incumbent independent candidate Ernest Fage, Progressive Conservative candidate Keith Hunter, Liberal candidate Brent Noiles and Green Party candidate Aviva Silburt in the race that saw the NDP elected to government for the first time in Nova Scotia history, winning a majority. Murray Scott held on to Cumberland South for the Tories, defeating NDP candidate Don Tabor, Liberal Joey Archibald and Green Party candidate Daniel Melvin.

It's an industry that once ruled the Province of Nova Scotia but has since faded to memory. Communities like River Hebert, Joggins and Springhill were built upon the mines. These communities still have a few men who connect us to that past, and they took time to remember their days of mining during Davis Day. One of those miners was Albert Arseneau, a 96-year-old River Hebert native, who took time on June 11 to lay a wreath in memory of the life that was.

Danielle Brown does not expect to be in school 100 years from now, but she has some ideas on what it might be like. The 10-year-old Cumberland North Academy student was announced as the winner of the Cumberland County Museum's "What Do You Think School Will Be Like In 100 Years?" contest during the museum's annual Museum Day activities on Saturday, June 20.


Graduating from high school can be an anxiety-filled moment as students prepare to venture out into the wider world. But, during his valedictorian speech at the Pugwash District High School graduation ceremony on Friday, June 26, Thomas Hebb made it clear he has no worries about his fellow graduates of the Class of 2009. In order to achieve success, he said they must be willing to take risks and go beyond what they are comfortable with.

Gathering of the Clans continued to be a big draw as was evident by the hundreds of Canadians who came from throughout the Maritimes to enjoy the day of festivities on Wednesday, July 1. Hundreds of people lined the parade route as people on floats, tractors, horses, fire trucks and vintage cars waved to the crowd while throwing candy to the kids. Entertainment in Eaton Park had seven different musicians, the headliner of which was Cape Breton's Matt Minglewood.

The beach might feel like a nice place to have a beer, but lifeguard Zack Deutsch was reminding that alcohol was not permitted on public beaches like Heather Beach here in Cumberland County. Not that the lifeguards were having any problems with drinkers on the beach early on in the season. In fact, during the first week of July, the beach was a pretty quiet spot due to rainy weather. But the sun came out on July 8 and stayed put through a busy weekend.

Blue Sea Beach was filled with buckets and shovels as boys, girls, men and women took to the sand to show off their artistic flair. When the time was on the sand creations, it was Jessica, Patrick, Connie and Gunter Lebmann's "Dancing Dolphin's Ocean Spirit" that captured first place in the family category. Kristi Fage, and Katie and Alex Scott placed first with Mr. Hermit Crab in the teen category, while Chy-Anne Stillman and Caitlin and Brook Louridge's Under the Sea creation came first in the Under 12 category.


Tall shops were not the only beautiful things to be seen in Pugwash during HarbourFest weekend, as the community hosted a Gardens by the Sea walking tour as part of its ongoing participation in the Communities in Bloom program. Seven local properties located in "the heart of the village" and featuring a wide variety of plants, flowers and styles, were on display in the self-directed tour held on Saturday, Aug. 1.

Life doesn't get much better than when you have thousands of people gathered at a festival on a bright sunny day, and that's exactly what happened at the Pugwash HarbourFest on July 31-Aug. 2. Several tall ships were on hand to be seen and visited by the large crowd of families and other onlookers, while other activities included beach volleyball and the provincial arm wrestling championships.

Organizers of the 91st annual Cumberland County Exhibition were hoping for another year of increased numbers at the long-running event, scheduled for Sept. 1-5. Entries and sponsorships were flowing in steady as preparations moved into high gear, according to summer student Megan Fahey, who was hired to run the exhibition office. She said everything was moving ahead on schedule, with new additions to the jam-packed schedule including a team penning event, and a revamped entertainment lineup.

While some industries have been crushed under the weight of the economic downturn, Jost Vineyards are crushing an increased amount of grapes to keep up with consumer demand. Aside from its reputation of producing good wine, another factor that helped boost wine sales was warm weather, and Malagash had plenty of that on Aug. 15 as hundreds of people flocked to the vineyards for its annual Blueberry Fest.

The Wentworth United Church Women (UCW) hosted its annual quilt fair at the church on Aug. 19-20, drawing in quilts and people from all over in conjunction with the regional Wild Blueberry Festival. Now in its fourth year, the quilt fair has become better known after the past few years, and it has, in turn, brought more and more people each year.


A pair of wetland heroes were honoured when Francis and Pauline Verstraten of Amherst were presented last week with the Lieutenant-Governor's Greenwing Conservation Award sponsored by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC.) This partnership began in 2001, when the Verstratens approached the non-profit organization to do some conservation planning for the farm. What began with Francis looking at options to protect the quality of the water by fencing cattle and creating remote watering systems turned into creating a wetland system to clean runoff from the farm and yet another wetland to increase biodiversity.

Blueberries make the world go around in the Town of Oxford but when the price of the fruit plummets like it has in the last two years, it affects sales at the Cumberland County Exhibition. That's the assessment of one veteran of the exhibition midway, who said people aren't spending as much money as they have in the past. Two years ago blueberry producers were receiving $1.05 per pound for blueberries. This year they're receiving 35 cents per pound.

Christmas came early for two dozen volunteer firefighters in Leicester. Sunday saw the early morning delivery of a new double cab pumper truck to the fire department as part of the Cumberland County equipment replacement program. Fire Chief Donald Read said the 2010 pumper is worth about $240,000, and can hold 1,000 gallons of water compared to 800 their old pumper could contain.

On Sept. 19, friends, family and acquaintances came together for the fourth annual Lynda Burke Memorial Walk. The walk began at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre and made its way to Gables Lodge, where Burke worked as a nurse for 18 years. The walkers raised money that goes towards a bursary for a student at Amherst Regional High School.


Dinosaurs take a back seat to nobody, except for maybe Don Brown, who hauls them around in the trunk of his car. He received a lot of attention when he hauled those dinosaurs out of the back of his car and put them on display outside his son's automotive performance shop at 92 Lower LaPlanche Street in Amherst. Brown also had a lot of kids visiting and asking him questions. Although dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago and Brown has been bringing them back to life through his carvings for the last 22 years.

Dead trees and bushes lined the roadside on Lower Cove Road, a quiet rural area appreciated by many for its natural setting. The effects appeared to be the result of an apparent government-sponsored roadside spraying program that resident Myrna Matheson said she was horrified to witness in late August, when she went on a bicycle trip with her daughter and two grand-daughters to the nearby Minudie museum. The Department of Environment was investigating whether proper spraying procedures were followed, while Matheson was calling for a ban on cosmetic spraying altogether.

Sixteen hundred people visited Ski Wentworth on Oct. 11 to take in Cumberland County's beautiful scenery at the annual Fall Festival of Colours. The two-day festival included chairlift rides to the top of Ski Wentworth both days and guided hiking tours both days. The three-hour guided tour began at the Old Valley School House and traveled to High Head.

After more than 10 years of enjoying the art of quilting, Joyce Babcock took part in the Quilt Expressions quilt display during the second annual Fibre Arts Festival in Amherst. Born in Alberta, she settled in Amherst and started quilting with some senior citizens after seeing an advertisement almost 12 years ago. Held from Tuesday to Saturday, the Fibre Arts Festival saw people from all over North America come to Amherst for five days of workshops and shows.

There were lots of fun activities happening at the Tidnish Community Centre on Sunday, Oct. 25, with area residents celebrating their fall extravaganza. From chili cook-offs to pumpkin and apple pie cook-offs, and a pumpkin carving contest for the kids, there were loads of other activities for young and old to take part in. Monies raised at the extravaganza go back into the community to support community needs, explained organizer Edna MacLeod.


A crew filming a promotional video for the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia swung through Cumberland County on Tuesday morning, filming a clip for the video at Maria's Place, a new health and wellness clinic opened this summer to help serve the mental health needs of the county. People from all over the province were to be shown in the video, holding placards with random statements about mental health. Among those holding the placards was Darlene Strong, professional counselor and proprietor of Maria's Place.

Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley's rebellious side was short lived. Voters sent lifelong Tory Scott Armstrong to Ottawa with a commanding victory in the Nov. 9 byelection. The Conservatives or Progressive Conservatives have won 16 of the past 18 elections in the riding. A year earlier, a large portion of staunch Tory supporters, including Armstrong, supported independent Bill Casey and voted against the Conservatives.

A crowd of more than 100 people gathered at the cenotaph in Wentworth on Wednesday, Nov. 11 to mark Remembrance Day, as both full-time and seasonal residents joined with uniformed firefighters and other guests to pay their respects. After a ceremony that included former air force pilot Bob Hyslop playing "The Last Post" on his trumpet, numerous wreaths were laid at the monument before the crowd moved across the street for a reception at the Wentworth Recreation Centre.

County councillors were hoping for more information on the future of the Chignecto Game Sanctuary. The municipality unanimously approved a motion to invite representatives from a number of different organizations to present their cases for the sanctuary before they could give their support for any of the proposed plans. Councillor John Reid was advocating a Department of Natural Resources management plan over a proposal for enhanced protection from local organization Cumberland Wilderness.


Eighty Cumberland North Academy students and 80 more from West Highlands Elementary School took part in a day of drug awareness activities at the Brookdale school as part of the Race Against Drugs campaign hosted by the Amherst Lions Club and various partners. Various stations were set up inside the gymnasium, and students visited them at 10-minute intervals. Highlights included two electronic racetracks, a puppet show put on by Lioness Dianne Chitty, fatal vision goggles demonstrating the dangers of being impaired, and local drag racer Barry Melanson with his car, which created plenty attention in front of the school.

An agreement was reached between the Town of Oxford and an association formed to govern the Northern region Firefighters Training Centre for a five-acre parcel of land at the end of Station Street. The goal of the association was to provide organized training for county firefighters so they would not have to travel all the way to the provincial firefighter school in Waverley. Amherst Fire Chief and association president Bill Crossman said the hope was to begin training at the facility by the fall of 2010.

Canada's newest Nobel Prize Laureate was not at a celebration held in his honour in person, but his invention allowed him to participate from a continent away. About 60 friends and neighbours of Dr. Willard S. Boyle, or Bill, as he is known locally, celebrated his achievement while he was receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics in Stockholm on Thursday.

Residents of a River Hebert seniors' home were fed up with a leaky roof that seemed to be getting worse rather than better. Plastic and buckets hung beneath areas of the ceiling at Hillside Villa, and the water was flowing every time it rained, according to resident Gretol Stevens. Replacement work had been started on the roof two weeks prior, but cold weather interrupted the work, she explained. Cobequid Housing Authority director Frank Carroll said the leaks were being addressed.

Organizations: Cumberland County Museum, UNESCO, Cumberland Community Transportation Service Society Responsible Gambling Council Cumberland Health Authority Ducks Unlimited Canadian Cancer Society Department of Environment Lake Trail Groomer Association Central Nova Tourist Association River Hebert District High School House of Cards Nova Scotia Gaming Cumberland Geological Society Green Party NDP Oxford Regional High School Cumberland County Exhibition IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax Cumberland County Firefighter Association Pugwash Volunteer Fire Department Progressive Conservatives Millvale United Church Joggins Fossil Centre Cumberland North Academy Think School Will Pugwash District High School Wentworth United Church Women UCW Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre Amherst Regional High School Don Brown Minudie museum Old Valley School House Tidnish Community Centre Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia Wentworth Recreation Centre Department of Natural Resources West Highlands Elementary School Brookdale school Amherst Lions Club Northern region Firefighters Training Centre Cobequid Housing Authority

Geographic location: Cumberland County, Oxford, Amherst Canada Nova Scotia Wallace Bay Stuttgart, Arkansas River Hebert North Shore Truro Cape George New Horizons Argentina Himalayas Mount Everest Nepal Williamsdale Collingwood Antigonish County Cape Chignecto Provincial Park Cumberland North Cumberland South Eaton Park Cape Breton Pugwash Leicester 92 Lower LaPlanche Street Lower Cove Road Alberta North America Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley Ottawa Waverley Stockholm

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