The School Options Committee looking into the Dalbrae Academy feeder system attracted large crowds to their meetings last winter.

With 2017 in the books and a new year underway, this is an opportune time to review and look ahead.

One of the most significant stories from the past year took place early last January with a tragic murder-suicide in Upper Big Tracadie. During the holidays, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Examiner recommended an inquiry into the deaths of Canadian Forces veteran Lionel Desmond and his family under the Fatality Investigations Act.

Efforts by community groups to keep their school buildings open were admirable and a welcome respite from the constant closures of the past two decades. In this new year, that trend could change as schools like Felix Marchand Education Centre in Louisdale are expected to be reviewed.

The fall-out from last year’s job action by the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union will continue to play-out over the year as the recommendations from the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions are being implemented at schools around the region.

On the municipal scene, the next 365 days could spell big news coming from the Town of Mulgrave as it negotiates the dissolution of its town status with the province and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.

Of equal interest will be the developments planned by the Town of Port Hawkesbury, particularly its long-awaited redesign of Reeves Street.

News from the council table in Richmond County will likely continue to generate headlines as a new Chief Administrative Officer takes over and the municipal unit continues grappling with reforms to its financial practices.

Also in Richmond County, many residents want the provincial boundary review commission to restore Acadian ridings like Richmond and are optimistic that work will start in the next 12 months.

After a year in which a former professor and students were accused of sexual assault, when Homecoming Weekend resulted in dozens of arrests and incidents, and when some of the donors to Mulroney Hall were questioned, it’s safe to say that StFX is hoping for more positive stories to arise in 2018.

Then there are the fates of high-profile projects in the Strait area which could greatly change the economic landscape. Maritime Launch Services continues to meet the community and plan for a rocket launch site in eastern Guysborough County.

This could be a make or break year for the Melford Terminal project as stakeholders seek out proponents and partners for their ambitious container terminal in the Strait of Canso.

Also in Guysborough County, the large-scale quarry under the direction of Vulcan Materials is expected to progress in 2018, which could mean good jobs in an area badly in need of economic diversification.

On the other side of the Strait, many eyes will be on Bear Head LNG’s plans to create an LNG facility near Point Tupper, as well as their proposal for a pipeline from Goldboro to Richmond County.

The new owners of the former Port Hawkesbury Airport, Celtic Air Services, will undoubtedly have an interesting 52 weeks in charge of the recently renamed facility, in light of the above mentioned developments and others in the works.

It is also hoped that Nova Scotia Power is able to complete running power lines across the Strait of Canso after an accident last month delayed the project.

The ability to increase high speed Internet and cell phone services to more parts of the region will hopefully gain traction in 2018, particularly in Inverness County where both services are inconsistent.

The next 52 weeks will be interesting for the owners of the Dundee Resort and Golf Club, as well as the Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs golf courses as their facilities continue to grow and future developments are planned.

Then there are two issues of national and provincial significance which will have a big impact in the Strait area. The first surrounds the upcoming legalization of cannabis and related products in Canada, and whether the provincial government’s decision to sell and distribute products via the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation will succeed.

The other important issue, perhaps one of the most important in this neck of the woods, surrounds emergency room closures and doctor recruitment efforts. As ERs remain open for fewer hours due to a shortage of doctors, it is hoped genuine progress will be made.

It is possible some developments will take place on these stories, and inevitably, unidentified issues will arise, but it is hard to dispute that 2018 has the potential to be another interesting year in the Strait area.