The second half of the story of a tiny fishing town in Nova Scotia’s and how it stands as a lesson in community renewal.
Following a couple of decades of decline, Lockeport is again in the midst of a broad-based renewal. All the energy and excitement in the town came together at that two-day conference in October 2009. Dayle Eschelby organized the event. She was Lockeport’s Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) Coordinator. Hiring her was a requirement by the federal government to qualify for the town’s share of gas tax revenue. It was Eschelby who discovered Storm Cunningham and got him to the conference, taking advantage of a relationship he already had with the Nova Scotia Community College.
Eschelby’s efforts demonstrate the importance of a second important principle of community revitalization – you can’t sit around waiting for rescue. “What’s really important,” says Dayle, “is that we don’t wait for things to come to us, but we go out really searching, trying to make the connections, doing the networking and starting the groundwork.” Eschelby is the last person you’d catch sitting around and waiting for change. She goes out and makes it happen.
Lockeport dynamos like Dayle Eschelby and Bil Atwood work under the Town Clerk Joyce Young for the Lockeport Town Council. Lockeport’s Economic Development Committee advises the Town and oversees projects. “I refer to them generically as renewal engines because they churn out this constant flow of projects,” says Storm Cunningham of the people behind Lockeport’s revitalization. “What’s important is that it does the visioning, the culturing and the partnering. In a town that size – Lockeport is only 650 people – you could have a one-person renewal engine.”
While it wasn’t Eschelby’s idea to associate the schools with UNESCO – Sue Boutilier, Instructional Designer with the Nova Scotia Community College School of Trades and Technology, thought of it – Dayle made it happen. She wanted to tie the school to the Town’s sustainability plan and to something called the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve, the five counties from Annapolis around to Queens, including the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and Kejimkujik National Park. The stated purpose for the reserve is to plan for sustainability. Dayle is very excited about the UNESCO link because the students, teachers and curriculum could all take part in revitalization efforts. “It’s going to give us a new way of thinking about our sustainability,” she says.
The Future and Its Threats
Dayle, Bil and Storm all believe the work in Lockeport has barely begun, mostly because there is so much potential. Dayle says, “I think we’ve been handed a gift on a silver platter.” According to Storm, “Number one, it’s got a spectacular location. It’s got some wonderful natural assets. You’ve got wonderful heritage. It’s still got a viable fishing economy that can be revitalized and built upon. It’s not just a one-trick pony.”
There’s no shortage of ideas about how to build a sustainable Lockeport, many of which have been around for a while. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t have a nice school. Now that we are a UNESCO site, I think it would go hand in hand with a new school.” Bil agrees that Lockeport’s natural assets can be built upon, “I’d like to bring in some more businesses, aiming at 15 to 20 workers or so. Or even just more businesses for tourism season whether cafés or t-shirt shops or kayak rentals. Make it a destination.”
One big idea that’s been kicked around for 30 years is a Centre of Marine Excellence. Both Dayle and Storm believe the idea is still viable. Dayle sees the schools, fishermen and local fish plants, a local business called Allendale Electronics that makes products for the fishing industry and even the Beach Centre as potential partners. “It’s a fishing town,” says Storm. “The ideal thing is to get the fishing back. What we originally talked about was using Lockeport as ground zero for a regional renewal effort, the biosphere reserve group of counties. There are a lot of things that can be done to greatly increase fishing income.”
Of course, there are those who believe such plans are foolhardy, who see all the effort as a waste of time, energy and money, who refuse to get involved or even support the efforts of Lockeport’s revitalization engines. Dayle believes such apathy, even hostility is the single biggest threat to Lockeport’s efforts to rebuild to something resembling the vitality of a previous age while staying true to its new principles of sustainability. “A lot of this needs to be community driven,” she says. “If people don’t get involved and don’t take ownership, it’s going to be hard to get a lot of these things done.”
Storm Cunningham sees a second threat – the loss of the renewal engine, in this case Dayle herself. “If they lose Dayle, they’re going to lose an awful lot. There’s no substitute for somebody who has the vision, the passion and the energy to make things happen and to stick with it long enough to see it through. It’s the single most damaging thing I can think of to Lockeport’s future right now, and it would take so little money to keep her going.” Dayle’s job ended on April 30, 2010.
Still, Storm Cunningham certainly hasn’t lost hope for the town. He sees promise in Bil Atwood’s position as project manager, as well as the work of the Economic Development Committee and the key role Town Clerk Joyce Young plays in revitalization. As Storm himself puts it, “I met a lot of really smart people who are quite aware of Lockeport’s potential.” One person may have left one position, but the revitalization engine in Lockeport may just be strong enough now to withstand Dayle’s departure.
Projects continue in Lockeport, the most recent being to raise the Little School House Museum and pour a foundation under it so it can withstand storm surges that occasionally push the ocean over nearby sand dunes. When I asked Bil how he’d know when revitalization was finished, he replied, “Oh, we’ll never be done. As soon as you’re done, then that’s the word, you’re done.” As so often happens in a small community, Bil has filled many roles over the years. In fact, he was one of those two entrepreneurs to build a set of beach cottages back in the 1990’s. Neither he nor the other members of the Lockeport renewal engine are about to let the revitalization process stall any time soon. They’ll never give up
All photos by Darcy Rhyno
Lockeport Mayor Darian Huskilson at the newly constructed look-off over Lockeport Harbour.
Lockeport High School with the UNESCO worldwide school network sign.
Lockeport Beach Centre, a part of this fishing port’s rebirth.