Eastern P.E.I. moves forward on coalition idea

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Historic meeting reaches consensus to work together in developing industry

The Georgetown Conference last fall hoped to inspire Atlantic rural empowerment and a grassroots renaissance. The conference helped rural residents realize they can attain significant achievements if they work together and believe in accomplishing things by themselves.

A major development from that conference took place last week in St. Peter’s Bay where civic leaders from across eastern P.E.I. sat down together for the first time. Foremost on the agenda was the creation of a regional council representing the entire eastern end of the province, involving all of Kings County and eastern Queens.

The area has a long history of local rivalries and petty jealousies which have impeded regional co-operation. When the issue of amalgamation was raised more than five years ago, local reaction was negative.

Kings County residents will remember the effort to build a central recreation complex in Pooles Corner, including a dual ice surface, to serve the entire county. Iceland Arena in Montague was being replaced, Morell Community Arena was at the end of its lifespan and a regional complex would take the financial strain off Georgetown, Souris, St. Peter’s, Belfast and Murray River communities. There was discussion of a new senior high school beside the complex to replace the three regional schools in the county.

The Pooles Corner idea never went very far as Montague built its own senior high school and rec complex, while other communities continue to struggle with high costs and declining enrolments in classrooms and minor hockey. The community rinks were always a source of local pride and viewed as providing additional opportunities for children.

Now, realities have changed. This latest initiative isn’t coming from the province, it’s a concept born in eastern P.E.I. and has a much better chance of success coming from within and not being imposed from the outside.

Last week’s meeting resulted in a consensus to work together in a coalition of towns, villages and unincorporated areas. Organizers are still exploring ideas on what this coalition might look like and what it will do, but it’s a very promising start. Eastern leaders realize that without local development and co-operation, population numbers will continue to dwindle. The time to act is now before it’s too late.

The challenge ahead is significant. For years, eastern communities worked hard to survive on their own. Now they realize they can do much more working together.

Stratford shows its support

The town of Stratford is being very proactive in seeking to enhance the T3 transit system and increase ridership. Unlike Cornwall, which never really warned to the idea of a regional transit system, Stratford is taking some progressive steps to see it succeed.

Two Stratford councillors, with the support of Mayor David Dunphy, will ride the buses asking users for suggestions. The mayor has asked his councillors, town staff and Trius Transit to come up with three action plan items to encourage additional use of the buses.

Mayor Dunphy is a big supporter of T3 because he sees it as a key service to the town, it’s convenient, eases pressure on both the Hillsborough Bridge traffic and downtown parking and saves people money. Council heard that ridership increased in December and believes much more growth potential is there.

Cornwall gave notice last month it was pulling out of the T3 service this year although Trius says it may put on a van shuttle service to serve some regular customers with no other means of travel, a group the town doesn’t seem too concerned about.

Geographic location: Eastern P.E.I., Georgetown, Stratford Kings Eastern Queens.The Belfast Murray River

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