SNBSC recreation workshop hears from St. Stephen area residents

Kathy Bockus/Courier Coastal trail proponent Bob Poirier of St. Stephen discusses areas through which the trail would pass with Jim Scott, one of the consultants with the firm of Stantec-Trace hired by the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission to create a master regional recreation plan. The plan is expected to be prsented to the board at the end of January.

Lawrence Station – Representatives of varied recreational pursuits presented their cases Tuesday night to consultants designing a regional recreation master plan for the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission.

Billed as a workshop and held at the Hemlock Knoll Landfill Site, consultants from Stantec-Trace met and spoke with a representative of the St. Croix Gun Club, a proponent of an indoor tennis facility, members of the St. Croix Ridge Runners ATV Club 67, an advocate of an extended coastal hiking and bicycling trail, and St. George area residents who want to develop a domed, multi-purpose facility in that community.

“It’s good to get input,” said senior planner John Heseltine. While he said he would have liked to have seen more people attend the workshop, the “reasonable attendance” Tuesday evening allowed for some “good discussions” with representatives of the SNBSC communities.

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The information gleaned through this public meeting, and a second one slated to have been held in St. George Wednesday night, will be combined with completed research, and a plan will be made ready for presentation to the SNBSC board in late January, said Heseltine.
Phase 1 involved compiling the research into available recreational resources within the service commission’s area.

There were some challenges completing the facilities inventory, because of the island communities involved, but it has now been completed, said Heseltine.
He said “pretty comprehensive process” of interviews with 25 stake-holding communities has been completed, “and we’ve done a good deal of demographic analysis.”

“We are compiling information from a lot of different sources as to the services available in the region. But we have to put it together in terms of facility wants and needs, and the financial capability of the region and the municipalities,” explained Heseltine. The public input, from the online survey, and the workshops, has presented a “clearer picture” for the consultants.
The information from the direct consultations with the public will be folded into the completed research.

“That will give us the foundation for the plan, which is an identification of facility needs, and a long term plan for facility improvement,” said Heseltine.
Don Brown of the St. Croix Gun Club attended the workshop, where he pushed the idea of relocating the club’s shooting range from the Boys and Girls Club of Charlotte County to upstairs at the decommissioned Border Area Community Arena.
He said he has arranged a meeting with one of the consultants, Jim Scott, for Tuesday morning to show him the arena premises.

Brown said the club has looked at other vacant buildings but doesn’t have the $100,000 in funding necessary to buy one.
Because of the confined space they now occupy, Brown said the gun club had to cancel an invitational shoot which would have seen shooters come to St. Stephen from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
He said the club has reached a point where it has to do something or close.

Reed Haley, along with Herb and Lynda Duplisea, teaches tennis to school children. They have long been advocates of using the arena for an indoor tennis court, so the sport can be expanded on a formal club basis, and be enjoyed year round.
Haley said the consultants seemed very receptive to the idea.
“All things are possible,” he stated. Haley said he presented the consultants with a formal written proposal from the three tennis teachers, so they would know the idea wasn’t an “off-the-cuff sort of thing.”

Bob Poirier spoke to the consultants about the concept of a coastal trail linking Maine’s East Coast Greenway through St. Stephen, through the rest of Charlotte County, to Saint John, and eventually to Fundy National Park.
“The big picture being could we make a viable recreational vacation connection between Acadia National Park in Maine, and Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, and promote our area around that?” stated Poirier. He will also meet with Scott on Tuesday for a more lengthy discussion.

He said the proposed walking and bicycling trail goes through St. Stephen to St. David Ridge, with a spur line to Saint Andrews, then through to St. Patrick’s Lake, St. George, and Saints Rest at the Irving Nature Park.
“If we don’t call this the ‘All Saints Trail’ we’d be absolute fools,” said Poirier. He also suggested the name “ASCOT” which is an acronym for “All Saints Coastal Trail.”

“Big things could be on the horizon,” said Poirier optimistically.
Garry Christie, chair of the Local Service District of St. Patrick, vice chair of the SNBSC, attended the workshop, and said he was disappointed in the small number of people who showed up.

“I’d like to have seen more people show up and show interest in it,” he said. “People need to know what we’re doing here. Some people have the opinion we’re wasting money, and I don’t think so.”