It’s been more than a year since I posted an article about the community of Cornwallis Park the place where I chose to take on the responsibilities of a house owner once again. Although happy with my new home, I have been dismayed by the challenges facing this community and how the residents were meeting them. All I could see was the potential here that was being ignored. Little communication among the residents, apathy, and negative thinking was keeping them stuck in a place which would no longer help them to move forward to meet any of the challenges that would be facing them. It wasn’t my idea of what a community was supposed to be.
If you are interested in finding out more about Cornwallis’ origins and the role it has had in keeping Canada a safe and peaceful country, then click on my first post entitled New Beginnings. If you have taken the time to peruse it, you now know that its short history as a ready made community has served an admirable purpose but not without many ups and downs. Old attitudes and questionable solutions as to what to do with a now defunct naval base have hindered the community’s efforts to come together and provide the necessary ingredients for a thriving community. Many of the buildings and facilities for the base today stand empty or in need of repair. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been the motivation and creativity from the various levels of government nor from the residents to really form a thriving community. However, as a result of few positive events over the past year, I am beginning to see a change of attitudes and actions taking place prompting me to write a follow up post or sequel to the beginnings of what could easily morph into a commendable example of what it takes to make a caring community that can work for all those who live there.
Here is a quick summary of the major challenges Cornwallis has had to face in the past year. There is no denying that the greatest blow was the sudden closing of the Basin View Centre shortly after I arrived there. This was a devastating loss for the people, wiping out the YMCA, the center’s anchor which served most of Annapolis and Digby counties for kids and adults alike. Gone was the olympic size swimming pool, sauna, hot tub, state of art exercise equipment, yoga, dance classes, and after school programs for the kids. Within thirty days every business, grocery store and other tenant in the center were closed. No sooner had we dealt with this blow when the we heard that the summer cadet program, which pulled in boys and girls from across Canada, was being cancelled. As if that weren’t enough, bad news and numerous rumours began to circulate about another noted attraction for Cornwallis….the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre. The rumour was that it was facing the prospect of having to close and most probably would be torn down due to COVID’s devastation of tourism and business throughout our province. For many of those who have lived there longer than I, the future loomed as another ‘here we go again’ feeling. Blame as to how all this came about landed in the laps of our local council, making it a wake up call, not just for our local government, but all of us. This should have been enough bad news but it wasn’t. There was one more axe to fall and that was the decision of the owner of the newly established Tripp Art Gallery to close it up due to lack of interest and uncertainty for its future.
However, the spirit of our community couldn’t remain for long in the black zone. Despite the rumours of gloom and doom flying around, the Basin View Centre quickly found new owners who saw enough potential in this ready made community to take the risk of buying it and making it a success. After months of renovations interspersed with sometimes negative rumors, the new owners hosted an open house this fall for all those in the community and far beyond to view what was in store for them. We were greeted with a brand new ‘state of the art’ grocery store, a bright, modern restaurant aptly named “Neptune’s Fork” overlooking the Fundy Basin, a kiosk serving delicious Sissiboo coffee from beans roasted in the nearby village of Bear River, sandwiches, and pastries baked on the premises, the Bumble Bee hair salon, and a soon to be opened, newly renovated swimming pool which no insurance company would touch two years ago when it was deemed a safety hazard.
The most recent good news event was the announcement of a large grant of money from the county to build a path and safe stairway down to our beautiful, unsung beach which we are so lucky to be near thanks to the Bay of Fundy. As most people around here know, the Fundy’s tides noted as one of the highest in the world and like so many other places near the water are undergoing changes due to the warming of our climate. In the past, the Fundy’s waters were not conducive to swimming for most people because they were too cold and its shores were too rocky. However, Cornwallis was gifted with a sandy beach which has been ignored by tourism Nova Scotia as a place for families to gather for swimming and making sand castles. Today as its waters warm up, it’s being discovered by more adventurous souls who want to get away from the crowded beaches of the south shore. With this newly announced grant, the plan is to make the area around the path to the beach into a park providing parking for a limited number of vehicles in the day time, picnic tables, and a walking path. With the turning of the first sod, I felt compelled to attend the ceremony despite the cold and blustery weather and was heartened by the sizeable turn out. There was a pervasive feeling of coming together and hope from those who played a role in bringing this to fruition and also those of us who came out to witness another new beginning for Cornwallis.
It’s gratifying and most exciting for the residents of this community which has had its fair share of beginnings and endings to know they once again have a place to shop for groceries, have their hair cut, meet their friends for coffee, or dine out for a fine dinner. There are plans for other amenities to be available as the plans of the new owners unfold. Most of the residents I know who are living in the Park or nearby are more than ready to make our community a place where people of all ages and other parts of Canada can enjoy their retirement, have a nearby elementary school for their children, a centre for them to shop or meet for a coffee with their friends, a bus service that connects them to other nearby towns such as Digby and Annapolis Royal, a theatre at the Conference Centre which is large enough for plays and concerts, and at last a park with picnic tables and an accessible set of stairs leading down to a lovely sandy beach for their children to build those sand castles.