Big Axe Marina highlights Nackawic’s riverfront vision

·4 min read

The setting helped tell the story along the Nackawic waterfront on a warm, sunny Saturday early afternoon on Aug. 13.

As representatives from the municipal, provincial and federal governments and special guests gathered for the official opening of the Big Axe Marina complex, area residents and visitors took advantage of what the weather and riverside town offered.

After more than five years and a score of challenges of Nackawic council and staff formulating their long-term waterfront vision, Mayor Ian Kitchen cut the ribbon to open phase one of its multi-phase plan.

Standing at the doorway to the newly built log structure serving as the Big Axe Marina canteen, Kitchen was surrounded by 16 of the many people who played pivotal roles in developing the waterfront vision, including the marina which opened in June.

“You’re all key players,” Kitchen told them.

The mayor needed only look to his left to see boats filling most of the available berths at the marina docks. He could look left or right to see other boats being launched into the water at two boat-launching ramps. Pontoon boats pulled in close to shore or tied up at docks to take on friends or family.

Straight ahead, he could see the marina staff serving a customer at the boat-fuelling station. In the background, jet skis roared up and down the Nackawic Stream and the St. John River.

Further to his left, he could see a family of tourists touring the variety of floating docks or trails leading past the town’s famous landmark, the World’s Biggest Axe.

Nearby children laughed and splashed in the water or dove from a floating dock while parents and others relaxed in the shade of trees.

Kitchen said the project began five years ago when council, staff and community volunteers planted the seeds for a long-term vision to turn the town’s already beautiful riverfront into a tourist destination.

The hiring of Glenn Group Landscape Architects and Park Planners, represented by Justin Christie at the ribbon-cutting, provided a detailed blueprint and long-range plan.

The formation of Destination Nackawic Economic Development Corporation spearheaded the creation of an economic plan for the greater Nackawic region, including the waterfront.

As members of the waterfront and economic committees, Deputy Mayor Greg MacFarlane and Coun. Robert Simpson had front-row seats as the town and partners turned a distant dream into reality.

The deputy mayor wore his emotions on his sleeve as he spoke, with Simpson at his side, before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

MacFarlane thanked Simpson, the mayor and other councillors, residents, staff, consultants, contractors and the many advisors who played a role in completing the marina project. He thanked his wife Anna for putting up with the “ranting and raving” over several years as the waterfront committee jumped the many hurdles and secured funding.

MacFarlane reminded those on hand for the ceremony that the marina project is only phase one of the Nackawic’s waterfront project.

Three levels of government funded the project, with the federal government participating through ACOA and the province through the Regional Development Commission.

Tobique-Mactaquac MP Richard Bragdon, who noted his office overlooks the town’s waterfront, represented the federal government. Growing up with his father working across the river at the Nackawic mill, the graduate of Nackawic High School considered the town his home.

“This is absolutely gorgeous,” Bragdon said as he motioned toward his surroundings.

He described the Nackawic project as an example of projects ACOA should fund, calling it an “investment in the future.” Bragdon pledged to push for additional funds for the subsequent phases of the project.

Ames said he had dinner Friday evening with Gary Crossman, the minister responsible for the RDC, explaining they both see Nackawic’s vast potential as a tourism destination and economic driver for the Upper St. John River Valley.

“This is well-spent money,” Ames told the River Valley Sun.

He praised MacFarlane, Simpson, town council, staff and their many partners.

“It’s a well-organized team,” he said. “They got their act together.”

Christie, speaking on behalf of Glenn Group, also thanked council members and staff. He described the marina as a pivotal step in making Nackawic a tourism hub for the Upper Valley.

“Nackawic not only puts you on the water, it now welcomes you from the water,” he said.

During his remarks, Mayor Kitchen praised the efforts of project manager Lonnie Forbes of the regional service commission, Destination Nackawic President and CEO Brent Samson and key contractors Eric Cummings of E. Cummings Contractors, Dwight MacFarlane of D-Mac Electric and Ron Blaney of Riverbend Log Homes.

Cummings attended Saturday’s celebration with several members of his Woodstock-based firm.

“As a group, we said that when we’re done, we want to say the word ‘perfect.’ I hope everyone is in agreement,” he said.

Those using the Nackawic waterfront Saturday served as an example of what the waterfront currently offers and its potential. It’s not just a tourist destination. It’s a valuable asset to residents of Nackawic and its surrounding communities.

Before diving off a dock, area teenager Damian Hathaway said it’s a great destination to enjoy a hot August afternoon.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun