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Bringing back the aboiteau

Randy Corcoran and Rosemary Rowntree are part of the Parrsboro Aboiteau Restoration Council, a new group calling on the Municipality of Cumberland County to repair the leaking gate structure when the province replaces the Two Islands Road bridge.
Randy Corcoran and Rosemary Rowntree are part of the Parrsboro Aboiteau Restoration Council, a new group calling on the Municipality of Cumberland County to repair the leaking gate structure when the province replaces the Two Islands Road bridge. - Andrew Wagstaff

New petition calling for restoration of water levels

PARRSBORO, N.S. – Parrsboro area residents are being asked if they wish to see historic water levels in their aboiteau return with the installation of a new bridge on Two Islands Road, expected within a few years.

Up until recent years, the aboiteau has provided a picturesque large body of water in the middle of Parrsboro made possible by a gate structure installed under the bridge in 1912. Water has been leaking around the structure for the past several years, resulting in an unsightly muddy area that is covered by water only some of the time.

A new group, the Parrsboro Aboiteau Restoration Council (PARC), wants to see the aboiteau repaired and holding water once again, and is circulating a petition to gather public support.

“There is huge support for having that back,” said Randy Corcoran. “We’re trying to gauge public support to see if we want to move forward and also to get a list, if we do move forward, to present to (county councillor) Norman Rafuse and council some signatures to support what we have.”

Corcoran has been around the aboiteau for most of his life, and was a key figure in having a fish passage installed through an agreement with the department of fisheries and oceans. He has seen hundreds of thousands of fish stocked there, only to be lost.

Installed for beautification and recreational purposes, the aboiteau inadvertently created a habitat for fish, birds, amphibians and other wildlife, he explained, and losing the water has had a huge impact.

“There are very few coastal birds around Parrsboro anymore, and they used to be all in the estuary, up in the aboiteau, because they had food,” he said. “You almost never see a blue heron here anymore, and there are only a few ducks, when there used to be hundreds.

“That’s part of what we lost there, not to mention the social, recreational and cultural value of it,” he added.

For decades the aboiteau was a hub of recreational activity in Parrsboro, with boating and fishing in the spring and summer, and skating in the wintertime. It has been a venue for everything from fishing derbies to snowmobile races.

The water level problems have been going on for so long now that new residents to the area do not remember what the aboiteau used to be. Rosemary Rowntree is one of those residents, and she sees the potential it offers.

“We’re seeing a lot of different sides to this argument now,” she said. “But my heart says it would be gorgeous, and would be a big draw. I think a lot of old-timers in town would love it because they remember.”
Corcoran fears an opinion is starting to prevail that the aboiteau should be left to return to the way it naturally was prior to the installation of the gates. He believes that argument is more about money than the environment.

He argued that the sediment deposits of the last century mean the area will never return to the way it was prior to 1912. In fact, he argued that the loss of the gates would result in erosion in the area of the former railway bed behind the NAPA building.

“Sometimes nature needs help, and there are all kinds of projects where people are changing it to make it more productive,” he said. “When an area like that is much more productive, that’s better for everybody and everything.”

The petition is now available at Lynda’s Guys & Gals, NAPA, Ken’s Grocery and Wheaton’s Irving, and efforts are being made to make it available online for the many summer residents and others who wish to support it.

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