GUYSBOROUGH – It’s been almost a decade since the idea for a marina in the Country Harbour area was floated – and this summer that idea will finally set sail with the soon to be open Salsman Park Marina.
The marina, located on Highway 316 between Country Harbour Mines and Middle Country Harbour, will have 11 berths and four moorings, once the docks and floats are in place in two to three weeks’ time. Two summer student employment positions are also open for applications and a lottery for berths was held May 10, as more requests for spots have been made than are available – a sign of the demand and future success of the project.
The Journal spoke with Salsman Park Marina Association Secretary Jolene Hudson last week about the history of the project and the season to come.
“In a nutshell, Rob Walsh, who is a community member, saw a need a number of years ago for a marina or some sort of [boat] launch outside of the one that is available in the provincial park,” Hudson said, adding, “Having said that, we very much appreciated the use of that launch within the park for years. However, the schedule of the park tightened in, typically from the long weekend in May to the long weekend in October, and then it tightened into sometime in June to sometime in September. It was shortening up the boating season.
“It was January of 2013 that Rob Walsh and our then Councillor [the late] Rickey McLaren … he worked with Rob, with council and with us as a community trying to get this off the ground,” said Hudson.
In the beginning, the community thought they’d be able to bring the project forward with fundraising – bake sales and 50/50 draws.
“When I look back, our innocence was amusing,” said Hudson.
“We started costing things out and we soon realized it was likely beyond anything that we could do. We did have agreement, right from the beginning, we worked with DNR (Department of Natural Resources) because we would have had to lease the property from them to use it; it was the picnic park portion of the provincial park. We didn’t hit any snags that way, everybody seemed agreeable to it; it was just hard to come up with the funds to get it moving,” she said.
The project stalled but was revitalized during COVID, “When the municipality [Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG)] came on board, recognized that it would be a really nice thing for this area to see this come to fruition. We have a beautiful harbour. We have all kinds of people interested in boating…All the while Rickey McLaren [was] going to bat for us at council and selling the project. So, they came on board, and we reconvened as a committee [Salsman Park Marina Association],” said Hudson.
The MODG spent approximately one million dollars on the project, MODG CAO Barry Carroll told The Journal. And a leasing agreement was signed between the province and the municipality for the land, while a third-party lease was signed between the marina association and the municipality for the operations of the facility.
MODG Warden Vernon Pitts told The Journal that the municipality was looking forward to the opening of the marina and said the reason the municipality wanted to build the facility, “First and foremost is, as we all know, Sable Offshore Energy came ashore in that area and we didn’t do a lot of investing over there in the previous years…and we were always looking for something to do, that would tie in with the community—local businesses and residents—and this is going to be excellent.”
Pitts went on to say the marina would enhance tourism and infrastructure in the area.
As Hudson previously noted, the late Rickey McLaren put a great deal of effort into moving the marina project forward in his role as MODG councillor for the area. Pitts said plans were in the works to have some form of recognition of McLaren’s part in the project at the marina.
“He was a driving force behind that…Councillor McLaren, he got involved in it and he took it to the municipality…and we built it and it should be built. But it was his taking a hold of the reins that actually got that mission accomplished, shall we say.”
Hudson said, “The municipality funded the entire cost of the project…all the construction pieces…. It’s up to the association to take care of the day-to-day operations of the marina. So, we’ve taken on that responsibility – that includes the garbage, the fees, the insurance, the utilities, all the things that we need operate.”
In future, the association would like to expand the marina, but Hudson said, “We’re going to walk before we run. There are 11 berths right now and it’s designed so that we have the ability to expand.”
Hudson said she’s only heard positive feedback about the project and many people are excited to see it up and running.
Whether it’s the COVID effect, or the cost of gas, Hudson said she’s seen the staycation trend catching on in the Country Harbour area, noting her situation; although her family lives near Salsman Park, they take their camper to the park, “90 per cent of the time in the summer and we take our boat on that harbour because, why would we go anywhere else. It’s all the things that we love to do and there’s a lot of local people that stay there for that reason. People are starting to realize that the harbour’s there, it’s beautiful.”
The Salsman Park Marina will be one more reason to vacation close to home.
For more information on the Salsman Park Marina, visit their Facebook page.