The Welshpool Landing project recently received a significant investment of federal funding that will help move the project forward so that berthing can be offered this summer. The project aims to both recreate the past when the wharf on Campobello was the centre for the community and breathe life into a new future in which the port complex strengthens both marine and land tourism initiatives for the Passamaquoddy Bay region.
The Canadian government, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), announced on February 19 that it is contributing $430,000 to the project under the Innovative Community Fund, and the Friar's Bay Development Association is providing $180,000. The total project cost is pegged at $3.9 million, and the association has already been awarded both the wharf and just over a million dollars for repairs. The new funding will be used to install floats and a gangway for smaller vessels by this May, so that vessels up to 65 feet can dock at the wharf. Further work later in the project will allow vessels up to 300 feet long to tie up to the main wharf. The funding also will be used to make renovations to nearby Welshpool Hall so that it can be used on a limited basis this summer. Renovations eventually will provide space possibly for a restaurant and a venue for theatre, events, arts and crafts and services.
Joseph Gough, president of the Friar's Bay Development Association, says, "As southwest New Brunswick's closest deepwater port to the United States, Welshpool Landing will tap into the booming American marine‑tourism market. With its hub‑like location, it can channel visitors to other Passamaquoddy communities such as St. Andrews, Deer Island and Grand Manan. We see our project as part of a bay‑wide boost to tourism while also serving aquaculture and the historic traditional fishery."
At the funding announcement in St. Andrews, Gough noted that the Welshpool Wharf served fishing boats for many generations, and he recalled when one could take the mailboat to St. Andrews for 35 cents and when the Grand Manan ferry used to call at Campobello. Now the wharf will continue to serve the area by bringing new opportunities. He stated that the Passamaquoddy Bay region is "way behind" the coast of Maine for marine tourism but offers visitors a rich history, from the 1604 French settlement at St. Croix Island to the Roosevelt family history on Campobello. However, access to the region is not easy for vessels coming from the U.S. Welshpool Landing will be the closest deepwater port to the U.S. and will be able to offer clearance through the Canada Border Services Agency.
A shuttle from Campobello to Eastport has been proposed, and Gough envisions Welshpool Landing as being a gateway to Lubec, Eastport, St. Andrews, Grand Manan and the Passamaquoddy Bay region. "We can sell it to the enormous American market," he stated. "I believe it can help the whole region."
Ron Beckwith, superintendent of the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, related that as a young man Franklin Delano Roosevelt had "hung out at the Welshpool wharf," which was then a bustling commercial centre for the community. Also, Eleanor Roosevelt used to attend the dances at Welshpool Hall. Beckwith is convinced that the wharf can again serve as a centre for the community. He said that the development plan "is a game-changer for the park and for the region" and that the park looks forward to a continuing partnership as the project moves forward. Beckwith added that Eastport Port Director Chris Gardner "sees cooperation around the bay as key to development for all of us."
Concerning the port redevelopment, Karen Ludwig, member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and minister responsible for ACOA, stated, "We anticipate that this will further promote the area as a must‑see destination for tourists and create new economic opportunities for the entire region." She pointed out that Campobello Island, with the Roosevelt park, Head Harbour Light Station, Herring Cove Provincial Park and activities from bird-watching to nature walks, makes the region unique. Marine tourism offers a special viewpoint for the area, and wharves, which have long served as centres for transportation and for communities, can help attract visitors to the region.
Gough points out that, east and west of the Passamaquoddy Bay region, marine tourism is booming. Saint John reports about 180,000 passengers a year from large cruise vessels. In Maine, the cruise industry generates about $45 million yearly and 800 jobs. Welshpool Landing can provide an easily accessible gateway to the Quoddy region for windjammers and small and medium-sized cruise ships, he believes. In addition, private leisure craft can bring further revenues. Approximately 35,000 recreational vessels that could sail in the Bay of Fundy are located in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts alone.
The Friar's Bay Development Association is an incorporated, nonprofit organization whose main objective is to work for the benefit of the Friar's Bay, Welshpool and Campobello Island area, supporting sustainable development and a natural environment. The association is operated by a board of directors made up of Welshpool property owners and local business operators.