ST. ANTHONY, NL – Work towards a strong and sustainable future for the Great Northern Peninsula gained further promise last week.
Local leaders and entrepreneurs came together with researchers and representatives from Memorial’s Harris Centre and Grenfell Campus to discuss this goal.
The Sustainable Northern Costal Communities Regional Engagement sessions took place on Dec. 6 and 7 at the College of the North Atlantic campus in St. Anthony.
Bojan Fürst, manager of knowledge mobilization for the Harris Centre, says the meetings were put in place to continue their research and build economic growth and opportunities for these communities.
“In the last few years there’s been a lot of talk about demographic shift on the Northern Peninsula,” said Ken Carter, director of Grenfell’s office of engagement. “Changing the narrative from challenges to opportunities is the thing we always come back to.”
Through extensive research done in the past year, three major proposals have been selected as the focus for future development.
One proposal involved work with the Grenfell Gardens; a path to reignite the area’s agriculture base, as well as encourage further growth in tourism.
A second proposal detailed diversification in the fishery. With cod and groundfish on the return, the group detailed how the area can best profit from these species on local and international levels.
The third proposal focused on the European Union’s recent free trade agreement with Canada. The key in this proposal, says Carter, is understanding the opportunities this free trade agreement provides and how the Northern Peninsula can take advantage of them.
With other municipal mayors and representatives, Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald attended the meeting. She says it shows great promise on all fronts.
“There was a great mutual respect that came out of it,” Fitzgerald said. “They wanted to know from local wisdom and local experience what we think of these proposals. That to me was what was most hopeful.
“It’s a recipe for success.”
Fitzgerald says she was grateful the meetings were not problem-oriented, but about collaborating and making partnerships to better the region and the many potentials that are there.
“One of the key messages was identifying and measuring our sustainable assets,” she said. “We have a lot of resources right here that we’re not really marketing or pushing towards.”
The buzz in the room extended to the Memorial representatives as well. Carter says the relationship between the Northern Peninsula community and the university has grown stronger and both sides are bringing a lot to the table.
Further work is expected to begin next spring, with follow-up meetings in St. Anthony expected to occur in March or April of next year. These meetings will detail further updates in the university’s research and the next steps to making these three proposals a reality.
Carter sees the blasting of harbour rock and the potential for a new wharf in St. Anthony as a great sign of economic possibilities.
“Removing the harbour rock would make shipping a lot easier,” he said. “There’s no question that an international port would be a really strong asset, not only for St. Anthony, but for the whole western region.”
Fitzgerald is excited for the work to continue, and says she is glad to see the conservation on the Northern Peninsula shifting from doom and gloom to opportunity and progress.