Oxford building new future for industry, community

Christopher Gooding cgooding@citizenrecord.ca
Published on January 7, 2014
Oxford Mayor Trish Stewart says the community has made some successful steps towards a fun summer for residents and visitors, but the scope of a Habitat For Humanity project in the community stands to become a life-changing experience for a lot of people.
Christopher Goooding photo

OXFORD – The Town of Oxford was well on its way capitalizing on its roadside fame through its roadside attraction, Oxly the Blueberry, but 2013 was about creating new ways to draw motorist further into the town and experience what the little community has to offer. As 2013 drew to a close, a downtown square was under construction and the spinoffs, Mayor Trish Stewart says, promises to make 2014 a good year.

The Citizen-Record: Tell us about the community square and how it’s taking shape.

Trish Stewart: Well, let me look out my office window here... This is a project that grew out of the Heritage Square committee when the proposal came in three years ago. It started when the old town hall had to come down and the community was really upset about it but it was something that had to be done because the building was falling down and not repairable. We had a community meeting and this idea is what came out of the meeting. We wanted a ‘green-scaped’ area, which was a multi functional area. The committee went ahead and went to different organizations such as the Lions, Main Street Music Society, they talked to Kevin Black at the school – he teaches trades and construction at the high school. They did they’re homework. After a lot of local community funding, and the Town of Oxford and public works pitched in, a group of approximately 30 students built that structure from the school. Communities in Bloom is handling the landscaping of the area. It’s such a feel good story. We just got the structure finished and the landscaping will take place in the spring and we’ll have our ribbon cutting ceremony in the spring. I foresee music festivals, open jam nights, the farmers market and anything else we can put there.

CR: And Oxford had its first music festival this summer.

TS: That’s right. We had the Down By the Riverside Music Festival. You can never can count on Mother Nature. It just kind of happened that during the weekend there were torrential rains and I’m serious, we had torrential rains. So we ended up having to go into the arena but, you know what, it wasn’t that badly attended and it was the Downtown Revitalization committee that set up the festival and are interested in doing it again.

CR: It sounds like Oxford is gearing up towards a lot of festivals this year.

TS: I have another councilor and they are interested in setting up a strawberry festival this year. I know we’re known for our blueberries but we also have a lot of strawberries. We’re just berry country, I guess.

CR: I know the construction of the new fire hall for the department is underway, but looking ahead are there any new infrastructure projects on the horizon?

TS: One of the big projects that have just started to come to fruition is the Habitat For Humanity project. This is something that has been in the works for about three years. This was a council-driven project through our land-use committee. When the old high school came down we had an area of land that was vacant so we put out a request for proposals and one of the proposals we got was actually Habitat For Humanity. They approached us, and I’m going to give you a direct quote from them, “Our proposal will provide affordable homeownership for up to 25 families and will establish the Town of Oxford as a champion and leader and supplier in affordable housing opportunities for low income, working families…”

So the big announcement is, we were able to form a steering committee, the process is going forward. The Town of Oxford is releasing the land one home at a time but we have room over there for up to 25 Habitat houses.

CR: So, in essence, you will be creating a whole new subdivision.

TS: That is right, and this is something that has never been done in Nova Scotia before. I think it’s pretty big.