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THE VIEW FROM HERE: Seven wonders of the South Shore

I’ve always considered myself fortunate to have been born and raised on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, a place second to none anywhere else on the planet as far as I’m concerned.

Sure, there are places where the temperatures are warm and balmy year round, where it never snows and where the grass always seems greener, but that doesn’t make them any more attractive than the South Shore. This is my home and it’s where I hope to remain.

I appreciate that over the decades, the region has faced many economic challenges, but the one thing that has always impressed me about the South Shore is the ample supply of resilience that exists here. Through all the difficult times — and the good times — there remains an undercurrent of persistence, optimism and a survival instinct that bodes well for the region well into the future.

In recent decades, we’ve weathered a tough economic storm that essentially started back in the 1980s with the collapse of the traditional ground fish industry. Ultimately, that led to the closure of many processing plants throughout the southwest region and beyond.

The hard times culminated some eight years ago with the mothballing of the former Bowater paper mill in Brooklyn, Queens County. The impacts from the loss of one of the region’s largest employers were far-reaching and are still being felt. In fact, those losses will reverberate well into the future, affecting not only those who were directly employed at the mill, but also those who worked in the forestry industry supplying fiber to the paper maker and other residual industries.

However, through all the turmoil, all the ups and downs, and all the uncertainty, the people of this region soldiered on with a determination that is to be celebrated and revered.

Giving up has never been an option for the people of the South Shore. Our ancestors saw tough times and with pure grit and utter determination they pushed through the dark times and built our communities.

And whenever the darkness closes in again, we’ll rise above it. This region has a great deal going for it, but the key is to stop dwelling on the negatives. We hear from the naysayers and the fear mongers far too often. Instead, we must turn our attention to the future and embrace the opportunities because no one else will do it for us. The days of government handouts have long since passed, meaning it’s up to us to jump in with both feet and take hold.

We have a lot going for us so in looking to that positive future I’ve done an inventory of those things that I like to call the Seven Wonders of the South Shore.

Here’s what I know:

  1. Topping any list of assets must be the people who live and work here. I certainly can’t call myself a world traveller, so maybe my view is limited, but I can say without hesitation that I consider the people of the South Shore among the finest anywhere. I’ve known them to be hardworking and resilient and never easily back down from a challenge. They may get knocked down a few times, but I’ve seen them pull themselves up, regroup and face their challenges head-on. That’s a powerful resource on which to build a future.
  2. It almost boarders on cliché, but there is no denying that the region’s natural unspoiled beauty is also one its strongest resources. As the world continues to shrink, people elsewhere will seek out places such as ours, places that can offer a brief solitude and reprieve from the spoils of modern technology and industry. Our challenge is not only to protect and preserve these natural assets, but to also find a way in which to capitalize on them. This must be done with care, but surely there is a way.
  3. Another strong asset is the region’s rich and diverse heritage, starting with Yarmouth’s proud history in shipbuilding and sailing, Shelburne’s proud Loyalist and African-Canadian heritage, Liverpool’s unique privateering legacy and Lunenburg County’s distinct connection to the sea, including the world-famous Bluenose and the Town of Lunenburg’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Add all of this together with the varied history in all other nooks and crannies of the South Shore and we’ve got a unique heritage experience that will attract the world. Let’s package them as one adventure and sell it to the world.
  4. As many of the region’s traditional resource-based industries have fallen on hard times, it is essential that we find new opportunities to take their place. Fortunately, the South Shore is known to be a unique ecosystem with a climate ripe for new and exciting agricultural opportunities, such as growing grapes to bolster the wine and cranberry industries and the Hascapa berry operation based near Blockhouse, Lunenburg County that is quickly making a name for itself. These are the types of industries on which we must build our future.
  5. I’ve often felt that those of us who live on the South Shore take way too much granted. Chief among those qualities are our relatively safe communities. Think about it. Compared to some places, the towns and villages in this region offer a safe, enriched and nurturing environment ideal for raising a family or for those looking for a comfortable location in which to retire. Do not under estimate the value of this resource.
  6. We’ve seen this region go through and survive some very tough times, so our track record is another important asset. We should not dwell in the past, but we must learn from it. Look to past successes for examples and learn from them. Draw upon the strengths and chart a course that includes the positives. There are many. The challenge is to find them and to hang onto them, but that’s the best approach as clinging to the negatives will get us nowhere.
  7. I would count our collective resolve to fight through the obstacles and overcome the hardships as another of our assets. It can be a slugfest for one person or even a small group of people to rise above the difficult times, but together, as a community, we can achieve a great deal. The desire to work as a cohesive group and to draw upon each other’s strengths, knowledge and experience is a huge benefit if we harness it.
  8. It’s true that this region continues to face challenges, as do most rural communities throughout North America, but we can decide either to give into the pressures and roll onto a slow demise, or we can accept the reality and move forward. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I believe with a positive and supportive attitude we can overcome whatever challenges are thrown at us.

When you put these assets into their proper perspectives, you can see that we have a lot going for us, or at least that’s the view from here.

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