PORT BICKERTON – In a time of widespread uncertainty, a deliberate act of community kindness has lifted local spirits and restored hope in the future of an important tourism attraction near Port Bickerton.
“During the course of late fall and winter, we had two amazing storms, which basically took our boardwalks and threw them into the woods, leaving the trails submerged under the sea,” explains Bruce George of the Port Bickerton Lighthouse Association. “Then, these really wonderful young people showed up to help clear and restore everything.”
The “young people” were members of Sherbrooke-based 1st St. Mary’s Scouts Group who, on April 24, picked up the flotsam, jetson, felled trees and scattered pieces of boardwalk under socially distanced adult supervision.
“We kind of took the project on together,” says the group’s commissioner, Sean Ashe, of his hardy band of eight children, age 10 to 14. “We spent the day there. It was a new way to give back to the community.”
Ashe had noticed the problem while walking with his wife weeks earlier. “We thought then that the trails could use some help,” he says. “I figured, we had the scouts’ group up and running and they're old enough to take on community projects. So, we got it arranged.”
According to George, the trailblazers had their work cut out for them. “First, we took some time and managed to locate the boardwalks where they’d been [displaced],” he says. “Then came the task of getting them back to where they belonged. Then we had to get the trails free of fallen trees and shrubs which had grown all over the place since last year.”
The Port Bickerton Lighthouse and Interpretive Centre, which maintains approximately two kilometres of walking trails, has been on a roll recently. Last month, the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s approved repairs to the access road, which was also damaged by rough weather. The tourism draw – which was commissioned by the province in 1997 – has operated as an artists’ retreat and weekly vacation rental.
Says George about the recent trail work: “I can only express how very, very pleased I am to see that we do have a group of volunteers in the wings who will contribute to the community in the future. I feel a lot better, not just because the trails and boardwalks are in place again, but also because we have people in our area who are willing to step up.”
Ashe says he only started the scouts’ group in January 2019. But despite the challenges of the past year, membership is rising. “Some of the things we have done to keep numbers up include posting full page ads in our community newsletter, which allowed us to recruit two new Scouters and their children to the program,” he says.
“Outdoor activities this scouting season have included flashlight hikes and playing man tracker. Our local school has allowed us to use both of their gymnasiums, which has given us [enough room] to [maintain] separate sections. Our community has been supportive both financially and with the use of their facilities.”
He adds: “Once restrictions ease and gathering limits increase, we plan to do a bring-a-friend night … The group is growing and we are looking for leaders for all age groups.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal