A bit of outside-the-box thinking might go a long way toward remedying the issue of wharves in Port Hood and on Port Hood Island.
The wharves were dealt something of a death blow on December 16 of last year when a brutal storm pulverized the structures. After the storm, a full section of the Port Hood wharf was submerged and other significant damage was incurred. The wharf on Port Hood Island was equally beaten down.
Of course, one winter storm was not enough to deliver all that damage. The structures have been falling into disrepair for years. As it now stands, the municipality has concrete blocks keeping traffic from driving onto the Port Hood wharf. There is also signage to serve as forewarning regarding the state of the structure.
Not good news to people in the area who look at the Port Hood wharf as a local landmark. Worse still is the affect on the fishermen using the wharf and a boatman who ferries folks to the island and back. Most boatmen use nearby Murphy’s Pond Wharf to dock their boats, but some still use the Port Hood wharf.
Councilors are now mulling over the best way to fix the structures. A study was prepared by Strait Engineering on the matter, and the municipal unit is using that to aid their battle plans.
Some might call it outside-the-box thinking – less-than-kind critics might call it wishful thinking – but the idea of repairing the Port Hood wharves might provide an opportunity to revive an idea from days gone by.
What about working to establish a ferry from Port Hood to Souris, PEI?
The idea of having a ferry leave Port Hood for Souris might sound far-fetched, but the concept was batted around a fair bit in the 1990s and in the last decade. Port Hood and area councillor Jim MacLean, who held a seat on council prior to Warden Betty Anne MacQuarrie becoming involved, was a vocal advocate for the idea.
With him, former Premier Rodney MacDonald and Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner gave the idea considerable attention, but the project never did materialize.
However, the landscape of Inverness County has changed. We now have two world-class golf destinations bringing visitors into the area. We have world-class cultural events like the Celtic Colours International Music Festival, and Cape Breton has won praise as one of the world’s most beautiful islands (Travel and Leisure, 2011).
Another consideration is that municipal council decided not to provide funding (estimated to be in the $3 million range) for a new airport in Margaree. That decision puts more money in play for the municipality which, if matching funds came from the province and the feds, could result in a tidy little nest egg. You use that money to provide some infrastructure development to make Port Hood an attractive wharf from which a ferry business could set up.
Geographically, Port Hood is a good location for such a service, as it sits halfway between Cabot Golf’s stronghold in Inverness and Port Hawkesbury, the largest town on the island outside of Sydney and the towns clustered around it. Also, with due respect to Sydney, seeing a community like Port Hood serve as a hub location for arriving tourists would do wonderful things for the struggling economy on the island’s west side.
Is that a viable plan? Maybe or maybe not. Let’s not fool ourselves about the difficulty of locking down funds from the province and feds. Neither level of government parts with money easily. With that, a ferry service would have to show interest in setting up shop here – we can’t be sure they would until we court them.
But we won’t know until we try.