SHEET HARBOUR – With a $50,000 grant from the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), Sheet Harbour’s long-anticipated marina project has passed another buoy marker on course to becoming a reality for this Eastern Shore community.
The funding, approved last month with support from Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore Councillor David Hendsbee, will cover the cost of crucial feasibility studies and effectively opens the door for final funding from all three levels of government and the private sector.
“There’s certainly a lot of recreational [boating traffic] between St. Margaret’s Bay and Cape Breton, but right now there’s no place [in between] to get full services, such as a refueling station, or car rentals, or food and other provisions,” Hendsbee said. “Certainly, having a port of call in the Eastern Shore would benefit that.”
In June, the Sheet Harbour Marina Association — the volunteer group attached to the community’s Chamber of Commerce — finalized its $150,000 purchase of old East River Wharf to provide a home for the new facility, which should be able to between 50 and 70 boats. With this new funding, association president Marilyn Munroe confirmed that the project can move forward with expert analyses of the site’s development needs and economic opportunities. “We’ll go out to tender now and put it in expert, capable hands,” she said.
According to HRM’s funding backgrounder, the first phase of the work will examine the feasibility of the location. “This initial step, referred to as a Marina Spatial Plan would evaluate the suitability of the ‘East River Wharf’ location starting with a bathymetric survey—which is a study of the ocean depth and mapping of the underwater ground contours to confirm the type and number of boats that could be accommodated—the potential placement of underwater fixtures, waterfront access points, and wind exposure.”
It also noted that the initial phase will “consider the existence and ownership of any underwater lots associated with the wharf and land-based infrastructure with respect to property acquisition, consolidation, development (including zoning), and any environmental assessment and related risk mitigation.”
After that, a comprehensive business plan will clarify the marina’s “operating structure, market demand, revenue and expense projections, implementation timeline, sustainability, and economic benefits.”
If everything goes as planned, major fundraising for the initial three-year capital plan of approximately $3.5 million — which would involve financial contributions from all three levels of government and the private sector — will commence.
Both Hensdbee and Munroe acknowledged that the recent change in responsibilities and portfolio names at the provincial government’s economic development agencies have raised questions about process, but Eastern Shore MLA Kent Smith was clear.
“I have not received any indication that there will be any changes to current projects in the pipeline,” he told The Journal in an email. “I can assure you that the marina project has my full support and I’ll do whatever I can to help it advance.”
Meanwhile, in an emailed letter to supporters last week, Munroe reported that about 150 people showed up at the association’s barbecue in early July. “Stay tuned… Our first annual banquet will be held at the Lions Centre on October 15,” she wrote, telling The Journal in a follow-up call: “The late fall…that’s when we start doing the big planning.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal