Francis Campbell Saltwire - April 20, 2023 Full article published here
The possibility of developing a golf course on a portion of the West Mabou beach park has finally been officially scuttled by the Nova Scotia government.
“There is not going to be an application for a golf course going forward,” Natural Resources Minister Tory Rushton said in an interview Thursday afternoon.
“This has been a long few months for everybody involved and there has never been a formal application put into the department. I’ve always been adamant that there has been no application and if an application came in we would let it go through the proper straining to see if there was an avenue. With this dragging on and I didn’t want it to go on too long, I did ask staff over the last month to investigate the (Provincial Parks Act) legislation.
"The report back was there’s no mechanism to allow a golf course development within that park. At the end of the last week, we did advise the proponent that at this time we wouldn’t be entertaining an application.”
West Mabou resident Nadine Hunt, a retired high school biology teacher who vehemently opposed the idea of hiving off one-third of the nearby 275-hectare provincial park to lease to Cabot Cape Breton for the construction and operation of another 18-hole golf course, greeted the news by saying “what a relief.”
“It’s just like a huge, huge weight off my shoulders,” Hunt said. "It was needless, they dragged this out for six months. It could have been stopped from the get-go. It should have been.”
The get-go was in mid-October when former Premier Rodney MacDonald, a Mabou resident, began canvassing community groups in the Mabou area to garner support for Cabot’s idea to add another golf course to complement the two 18-hole courses it operates north of West Mabou – Cabot Links that opened in Inverness in 2012, and Cabot Cliffs, just north of the Links along the Gulf of St. Lawrence coast near Broad Cove Chapel, which opened in 2015.
MacDonald first explained the Cabot plan by email to community groups in the Mabou area, saying that Cabot, after gathering community input and feedback, hoped to apply to government for a lease of a portion of the park.
The Cabot proposal for West Mabou would also provide $125,000 annually in funding for five Mabou organizations, ranging in individual funds of $12,500 to $50,000 for each group, which Hunt dismissed as “pure bribery” at the time.
The opposing letter-writing and influence campaigns soon took off, with people from the community and across the province taking a stand either for or against a golf course development.
Many said the government should scuttle the idea immediately and tell Cabot that the park was protected land that would not be leased to a private company. Government ministers and Premier Tim Houston said they would have to look at any application or proposal from Cabot before making a decision on it.
“What has certainly changed is this could have gone on for years, a letter-writing campaign and we may never have seen an application,” Rushton said. “I think we’re nearing the sixth or seventh month since this conversation has arisen again and I certainly didn’t want this going on for the community, it doesn’t matter what side you sit on, for or against it.”
In his correspondence with Cabot, Rushton said he did not get the sense an application was imminent.
MacDonald said Thursday that there was "no update on the proposed project at this time," and Ben Cowan-Dewar, co-owner of the Inverness-area courses, did not respond to a request for comment.
Rushton said there would be no formal announcement.
“There was no formal application, it was just a conversation and the end of the day there was no formal rejection, just a notice to the proponent that there was no mechanism to go forward so an application wouldn’t be entertained,” Rushton said.
“There was no file opened so there is no file to close.”
Hunt, a member of the West Mabou beach provincial park committee, said the community-dividing issue dragged on too long but credited the letter-writing campaign of those opposed to the development with forcing the government’s hand.
“What a group effort, too. It was just an amazing network of people who came forward to help out, locally and across the province, people who recognized the injustice of it and the value of what we have here and it’s the importance to preserve what we have.”
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