Amish move to P.E.I. comes with unique challenges

Steve Sharratt comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 18, 2016

Tony Wallbank with wife Linda indicate routes in Montague that arriving Amish families might prefer travelling with horse and buggy during an official plan review with town residents this week.

©STEVE SHARRATT/THE GUARDIAN

MONTAGUE - One of the toughest challenges facing the Amish families arriving in P.E.I. this spring won’t be the weather.

They are used to hard work, discipline and faith. However, a public meeting was told they do have a weakness.

And Beautown residents will see it first hand when the newcomers try to negotiate a horse and buggy into one of the busiest Tim Hortons on P.E.I.

“We tease them quite a bit about Tim Hortons," joked Tony Wallbank during a public meeting on the town’s official plan this week. “In Norwich, Ontario, they have a Timmie’s and a hitching rail that says horses only. We might have to talk to the owner of the one here in Montague.”

Wallbank and his wife, Linda, now reside on the Island and have been instrumental helping young Amish families from Ontario connect the dots in the planned migration to southeastern P.E.I. Their attendance at the meeting focused attention on finding the safest way for the Amish to travel the town streets and roads by horse and buggy.

“Once you get to know them they are quite talkative and I joked with one back in Ontario about the fact that Montague had a Timmie’s and he said, ‘I’m not moving all the way there just for that.’ And I said, 'Look at your office…you got every Tim’s cup and mug from the last 40 years.'”

An estimated two dozen families are expected to arrive within weeks to move into farm homes from Brothers Road and Bridgetown to Greenfield and Victoria Cross — and all roads lead to Montague. The Amish avoid most new technology and farm with draft horses and drive horses and buggies.

“They would definitely need hitching posts to tie up at places like Sobeys and Superstore," said Wallbank. “A place away from most of the vehicles would be best.”

The meeting also focused on the side streets in Montague that might best be used for horse-and-buggy travel as a way to help the Amish avoid the busy Main Street or provincial Highway 4 with over 10,000 vehicles a day.

Town resident Edgar Dewar, a designer of a new town development plan, said there were measures coming that would address such transportation issues.

Wallbank said the Amish also like snail mail and will have to access the town post office.

“I would hope in the future, as road reconstruction occurs, that widening the shoulders of highways would become a regular practice," he said.

Wallbank said the Amish culture will contribute to the province through tourism, taking over abandoned farms and selling goods and vegetables at markets or stands.

He also has said the Amish way avoids using social programs like employment insurance or welfare and that they care for grandparents and parents on the farm until they pass away.