OXFORD, N.S. – Snowmobile season hasn’t even started yet, but Oxford Mayor Trish Stewart said the town has already seen benefits from the new Trans Canada Trail tunnel.
The Oxford and Area Trails Association celebrated the opening of the tunnel under Main Street this past August.
“It’s been 20 years in the making, so, to finally have that come to fruition, we were just so excited about it,” said Stewart, in an annual year-end interview. “I can already see economic spin-offs coming from that, and I really think it was a positive move for our town, and of course for the trail itself.”
The opening of the tunnel and its multi-use trail for ATV riders, snowmobilers, walkers and runners was a highlight of the year for the mayor, but not the only thing that made what she described as a good year for her town.
Oxford also welcomed a Syrian refugee family in September, when the Hussains arrived after a long journey that took about a year and a half. The community has been accommodating to other Syrian families that have arrived in the past two years, with local employer Oxford Frozen Foods providing jobs to the men.
“The family has settled in quite nicely here in town,” said Stewart, who added the new family is expecting a baby. “I know other families living in Amherst do come to Oxford to work, which is great. We’d like to be a hub. Bring them in, we have plenty of room!”
Oxford will soon have even more room as construction will continue this year at its Habitat for Humanity site, where the second home is nearing completion and the third home has already had its basement poured.
“We’re pretty much on schedule with what our goals were with the Habitat homes,” she said. “It just provides something that is much needed in our community – affordable housing for people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford mortgages, so it’s a true benefit, for sure.”
Town council also received a boost in November, when David Clark was elected in a by-election to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Greg Wood.
Clark joined a group of varying levels of experience, including Stewart and councillors Dawn Thompson and Wade Adshade, who have worked together on council for 14 years.
“It’s always challenging when you’re at the table and you have one person missing, so I feel we’re complete and ready to get down to business,” said Stewart. “To me, we have a very positive council, and one that is really willing to work to get things done.”
The council is now working without the town’s long-time CAO, Darrell White, who was relieved of his duties recently. Interim CAO Kevin Maddison began part-time duties last week until a replacement is hired.
“We seem to be working quite well with that,” said the mayor. “He just started this week but already we’re moving forward and getting stuff done. We can’t miss any steps… we have to keep moving on.”
Moving forward into 2018, she said she sees many positive developments for the town, including infrastructure work that will see two major streets redone with paving, water and sewer, as well as sidewalk replacement.
Also being developed is the town’s ball field, now renamed after prominent politician George Henley, which will see fencing installed, improvements to the field, and the addition of a soccer field in the same area.
Meanwhile, the Oxford Arena has rebounded from being under the threat of closure last year, to being improved and well utilized this year thanks to a dedicated committee effort and support from the community and the county.
Another positive development has been the addition to town staff of economic development officer Ruthie Patriquin, who conducted a survey of the town on what is needed there. Results of the survey are now available on the town website.
“It identified a lot of things we need to work on, and a lot of things we’d like to offer,” said Stewart. “As a town, we can’t do everything for you. People have to work together to make a community, so we have had quite a few people step forward and offer to volunteer. It’s been very positive.”