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Reflections On VanRamblings' East Coast Maritime Vacation


For VanRamblings, one of the great joys of vacationing in Annapolis Royal revolves around the absolute tranquility of the evening and early morning hours. Life in Vancouver for us tends to be a noisy affair, at the best of times, and to arrive in Annapolis Royal and experience the peaceful serenity of the Annapolis Valley means more to us than words can express.

One week into our Maritime vacation, our east coast sojourn has proven to be everything that was necessary for us to transcend our protean life.

In Halifax, our stay at Dalhousie's Howe Hall was more comfortable and welcoming this time around than has been the case previously, and our welcome and stay has been pretty spectacular in the past. The habitants of Halifax were just as friendly and engaging as has always been the case. And, as per usual, hoofing it around town, when conducting our pedestrian self (and, yes, we get the pun ), we continue to be taken aback that when preparing to cross a street, when simply standing at a corner, vehicles proceeding down the road will always stop, not just sometimes, but always.

We also took note of one salutary change: every little coffee shop around the Halifax region serves certified organic free trade coffee. Were such fortunate circumstance the case in our west coast Vancouver home.

In Halifax, the buses run frequently, and it's easy to get around town. During the summer, Halifax's Metro Transit runs a free downtown / harbourfront transit service called Fred (Free Rides Everywhere Downtown), shuttling both Haligonians and visitors throughout the downtown core —
seven days a week, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A first-rate tour service, with an on-board tour guide providing commentary on historical highlights, Fred transports appreciative passengers throughout the summer months. Again, Vancouver would do well to learn from the Halifax Fred experience.

An insight into Annapolis Royal after the jump ...

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As for Annapolis Royal, the town is as pristine and pastoral as ever, beautiful bordering on the bucolic.

Annapolis Royal has hit some hard times economically, though, probably worse now than at any point in recent memory. One empty shop after another sports a forlorn looking For Rent sign, the number of businesses for sale on the town's main street alone despairing and depressing, compromising Annapolis Royal's continuing viability, affecting the ability of the town to provide needed services to its citizens.

In terms of summer tourism, the requirement of the Canadian and U.S. governments that visitors possess a passport, the winding down of the Yarmouth ferry (which used to transport thousands of Americans, each summer, to Nova Scotia and the Annapolis Valley) several years back, and the continuing strength of the Canadian dollar, almost now at par, all represent a 'perfect storm', a present circumstance that has driven tourism down during the crucial summer months in a community dependent for its livelihood, and viability, on visiting summer tourists.

Annapolis Royal's junior high (there's only one) is about to close, to be converted into God knows what? There's been some preliminary discussion, too, about rescinding Annapolis Royal's 'town' status (Annapolis Royal would become a village), the implications of which are far-reaching in respect of the services which might be afforded Annapolis Royal's declining population. That a town as vibrant and beautiful (and as you can see from the videos we've been posting, quite magnificent) as Annapolis Royal continues to experience hard times is nothing less than heartbreaking.

Clearly, the solution to Annapolis Royal's economic woes involves drawing clean hi-tech industry to this valley paradise on the Annapolis River. To that end, Annapolis Royal has developed a preliminary Community Plan in which it states (quoting from the Report / Discussion Paper) ...

  • 1. We recommend a web-based strategy to advertise Annapolis Royal as a prime location for retirees and young families to settle.
  • 2. The (town's) website should have a simple interface with few words but should promote livability with images of the awards won by the Town.

  • 3. We recommend marketing Annapolis Royal to young co-habiting couples between the ages of 25-35, retirees, and entrepreneurs with web-based business. We do not recommend marketing the Town to potential American immigrants.

With all due respect to the authors of the Report, Annapolis Royal is hardly in a position of finding itself able to discriminate against 'potential American immigrants'. Yes, the citizens of Annapolis Royal would wish to maintain the livability of their town, but if Annapolis Royal is to remain viable, the town needs an in-migration. Our American neighbours, operating IT businesses (any one of the video gaming companies or magazines, which are hardly location specific), were they to take up residence in Annapolis Royal, would once again make Annapolis Royal an economically viable community, as company employees would bring their families with them, and grow the town. Just because they're Americans doesn't necessarily mean they're going to ride roughshod over Annapolis Royal values.

No matter which IT business chooses to re-locate in Annapolis Royal, company employees would find that there is no better place to raise their children than Annapolis Royal. Quite simply Annapolis Royal, and the area around the town, is beautiful. There's much good that is going on here: a vital and thriving arts community, first-rate medical and dental (a big pull for Americans), great high-speed Internet service, and ready access to the eastern seaboard (Boston and Halifax), only a short hop away.

Housing prices are among the best in the country — where else could you purchase a 1.5 storey single family home, on property, for only $40,000?

VanRamblings loves Nova Scotia, and Annapolis Royal in particular. As long as Corinne can see her way clear to putting a roof over our heads every couple of years, we will be returning again and again and again. And we will continue to sing the praises of this undiscovered gem on the Atlantic.

VanRamblings, more than anything, wants Annapolis Royal to survive, to exist long into the future.

Work to ensure Annapolis Royal's continued viability must begin now.

Update: Tuesday morning, VanRamblings was provided a copy of the Town of Annapolis Royal Draft Strategic Plan, dated May 7, 2010. Once VanRamblings has read the strategic plan, in full, we will report out again contents, and further clarify the information presented in this post.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at August 9, 2010 5:27 PM in Travel


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