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Cape Traverse group meets opposition in clean-up plan

The Cape Traverse Ice Boat Crew hosted a public meeting Monday night, to discuss a potential cleanup of the local public beach. Robyn MacKay and Sharon Kamperman surveyed the shoreline at the beach in question recently while their children Elliott MacKay and Sylvia Cutcliffe played nearby.
The Cape Traverse Ice Boat Crew hosted a public meeting Monday night, to discuss a potential cleanup of the local public beach. Robyn MacKay and Sharon Kamperman surveyed the shoreline at the beach in question recently while their children Elliott MacKay and Sylvia Cutcliffe played nearby. - Colin MacLean

Revived historical society advocates for 900-foot wharf during Monday night meeting

CAPE TRAVERSE, P.E.I. —

A community meeting to discuss plans to clean up the Cape Traverse beach was presented with a second option Monday night.

The Cape Traverse Ice Boat Crew hosted the meeting to discuss options for the beach, now home to 155 concrete blocks and a mass of broken concrete containing exposed rebar. Local residents have been talking about a beach clean up for years, citing safety concerns.

Robyn MacKay made the presentation on behalf of the Cape Traverse Ice Boat Crew.

“If the community’s on board, it’s full steam ahead. The end result is going to be a safe and environmentally stabilized Cape Traverse beach,” said MacKay. “The beach will be safe, the beach will be protected from erosion and, most importantly, it will be accessible for everyone.”  

MacKay and the Ice Boat Crew have taken the lead, consulting with provincial officials and other like-minded Island groups with completed shoreline stabilization projects.

The Cape Travers area loses around 30 centimetres of shoreline per year and that will increase to 40 centimetres in the next five years, said MacKay.

“It’s definitely time to look at what we can do to have the best practices in place.” 

MacKay’s research led her to a combination of “rip-rap” tidal reefs and breakwaters made with natural stone to shelter the beach alongside plantings of marram grasses, wormwood and sea rocket to stabilize the sand dunes.

The Ice Boat Crew is prepared to hire a coastal engineer to assess the area and form a more specific strategy.  It’s the first step to getting the required permits for the work and to applying for funding.

“It’s definitely time to look at what we can do to have the best practices in place.” 

- Robyn MacKay

Danny Howatt, however, has a different dream.

Howatt was a founding member of the Cape Traverse Historical Society in the 1990s. The group dissolved in the mid-2000s. The Ice Boat Crew is the new generation of locals preserving the area’s history. But on Monday, Howatt announced the Cape Traverse Historical Society “is back in business” and named several community members who joined the newly revived board.

Howatt then laid claim to the land, saying the government had deeded the wharf and surrounding area to the historical society in the 1990s when he and the group were looking to restore the wharf, a 900-foot-structure built in the 1800s. The man-made structure created a beach to one side and a deep port to the other. Howatt is convinced rebuilding the wharf is the right way to save the beach.

In the 1990s, the community gathered donations and materials destined for use in the huge structure proposed by the society. In the end, lack of community consensus caused the project to fall apart. 

Not wanting to see the materials go to waste or see the beach continue to erode, the donated concrete was placed, with the best of intentions, along the shore.

Howatt knows there are 15 cement blocks weighing between 12 and 14 tonnes on or near the old wharf structure in addition to the 155 blocks on the beach. He points to the stability and durability of the blocks as proof his plan will work.

“They haven’t moved.”

Much has changed since Howatt’s initial plans. The Confederation Bridge has been built nearby and, some argue, has potentially impacted the ecosystem in the Northumberland Strait. The ice season is also shorter, leading to a longer storm season. 

Despite these  issues, Howatt is sticking to his dream of a new wharf.

“Everybody in this room’s got a decision to make,” said Howatt. “There’s been a lot of bickering and stuff that’s been said. Put that behind us and try to come together. But I just want to remind you that the Cape Traverse Historical Society owns the wharf.” 

However, Fisheries, Communities and Rural Development Minister Jamie Fox, who is also the MLA for the area, told the meeting the land is under control of the province. 

“All land around the province of Prince Edward Island is owned by the Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy and the province, and that’s fact,” said Fox, disputing Howatt's claim.

Additionally, the budget for the 100 working fishing ports under its purview is tight, added Fox. Any future work will need approval from the Department of Environment, Water and Climate change, he said.

Fox committed to put up half the cost of a coastal engineer’s study, with funds from the Department of Rural Development.

MacKay is trying to stay positive in the face of Howatt’s opposition and acknowledged the previous historical society put in a lot of work for the project in the past. 

“It’s difficult for us to hear science doesn’t matter,” said MacKay.

“Dreams don’t save beaches. Science does. We have to rely on the science.”

The Ice Boat Crew, she said, is committed to keeping the community up-to-date with meetings, the next will be to share the results of the coastal engineer’s work.

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