Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Plans are in the works to establish a new committee to address the decades-old debate about what to do with the popular Carters Beach in Port Mouton.
The Region of Queens Municipality council passed a motion at its September 8 council meeting to send a letter to the Nova Scotia Minister of Lands and Forestry requesting the establishment of the committee, which would include representatives from RQM; the Nova Scotia departments of Lands and Forestry, Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal and Environment; the Liverpool RCMP detachment; Acadia First Nations; and the Queens-Shelburne MLA, a West Queens business representative and two residents of Carters Beach Road.
The mayor of the municipality, David Dagley, and its chief administrative officer, Chris McNeill, recently met with local citizens to discuss a possible mandate for the committee.
However, Dagley noted that to a large degree the municipality's hands are tied in trying to deal with the problems surrounding the beach.
"People don't realize that we don't have much authority in that area. The Minister of Lands and Forestry is saddled with the responsibility for the beach area and the province is responsible for the roads," said Dagley, adding that he sympathizes with people living near the beach.
With its white sand and pristine waters, the Caribbean-like beach has been hailed as one of the top 10 beaches in the province.
During peak times in the summer, up to 500 visitors may be on it at one time. That's a cause for concern considering the area is one of ecological and archeological significance and requires protection.
Human waste and trash remain a perennial problem, with only a few port-a-potties and garbage containers on site. Moreover, the parking lot near the beach is only big enough for about 15 vehicles.
The beach and its offshore islands were put on the list of pending nature reserves in 2013, under the Special Places Protection Act, but work on that continues.
Dagley said the region stopped promoting the area in 2016, while the provincial government has tried to deflect tourism to other larger beaches that contain more amenities. But it's difficult to stop people from talking about it or posting pictures amongst themselves on social media, and curtailing the increasing number of visitors there that this has resulted in.
In 2018, the province enacted a pack-in pack-out policy, but it's had limited success; trash is still scattered along the road-side coming into the beach and along paths.
Carters Beach Road, the main road that leads to the beach, is narrow and although "No Parking" signs have been placed on one side of the road in the last couple of years, this has done little to alleviate the congestion.
A local liaison committee has been pushing to have the roads widened, the parking lot expanded and more amenities on site, however once again this year saw continuing traffic and garbage concerns.
The citizens are looking to have a designation of the beach determined as well as a clear policy on not just parking but enforcement. As well, they would like to see an administrative framework put in place for management of the beach.
The group is aiming to have this determined by April 30, 2021 and implemented by June 1, 2021. RQM staff are skeptical whether this timeline is feasible, however they've expressed hope that something can be done before next summer.