A place among the tides

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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FORCE centre popular with visitors

While it’s only been in place for a couple of years, the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy centre near Parrsboro is already becoming a tourist attraction.

Former MP Bill Casey (left) and Amherst Rotarian Bob Barnes talks to Mary McPhee of the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy centre near Parrsboro. McPhee spoke to members of the Amherst Rotary Club on Monday.

AMHERST – While it’s only been in place for a couple of years, the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy centre near Parrsboro is already becoming a tourist attraction.

FORCE is Canada’s leading test centre for in-stream tidal energy technology. The research centre works with developers, regulators and researchers to study the potential for tidal turbines to operate within the Bay of Fundy environment.

This in itself is attracting visitors by the hundreds to the operations centre. Its manager, Mary McPhee, said more than 4,300 people visited the site last year. That number as 16 per cent higher than 2012, the centre’s first year of operation.

On Monday, McPhee spoke to members of the Amherst Rotary Club about the centre and how it’s the focal point of important research on the potential for tidal power in the Minas Passage.

“At one point in the first year someone said they didn’t think we’d ever get more than a couple of hundred people down here and I believed them. I’m glad that I was proven wrong,” McPhee said. “To have a 16 per cent increase, by tourism statistics standards, is incredible. We’re hoping that it continues to climb.”

McPhee said many of the visitors to the centre are from the Parrsboro area or from Nova Scotia and most are interested in the environment and alternative sources of energy. Others, she said, came to admire the view of the Minas Basin and there were visitors from the western provinces, the United States and Europe.

“We had some visitors there last summer from Hungary and even from Australia,” she said.

McPhee said the centre had a couple of hundred visitors in November 2011 when it first opened and had a lot of visitors in 2012. She didn’t believe the number would grow again in 2013, but it did. She’s expecting it to grow even more next summer as more people learn about what’s taking place out in the basin.

She said centre has a lot of good partnerships with organizations like the Fundy Geological Museum and it does a lot of marketing itself, but she said people who are interested in energy tourism end up in the Parrsboro area to see the FORCE site and then go to other areas in the county.

“We end up bringing in a good percentage. A good 10 per cent of our visitors are coming to the area because of us and then are moving on to other areas once they learn what’s here,” she said.

McPhee said tidal power is a very new industry worldwide. At the same time, it’s also something that’s been talked about locally for more than 50 years. In many cases people don’t believe it will ever happen, but with the work that’s taking place in the basin and at the FORCE centre they’re coming to realization that it can happen.

Along with tourists, the centre gets a lot of visits from academics and teachers as well as school groups. She said there are also a lot of people along the shore working at the site and they’re bringing their family and friends to see what’s happening there.

“A lot of people come for the view and there’s a lot of curiosity at what’s going on,” she said. “Even in December when we were doing a lot of work offshore there were people coming to the facility to get photos even though we weren’t open.”

The centre is open from May until the end of October. There is no admission fee.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy, Amherst Rotary Club, Fundy Geological Museum

Geographic location: Parrsboro, Canada, Bay of Fundy Minas Passage Nova Scotia United States Europe Hungary Australia

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