New interpretive facility in Mount Stewart nears completion
by Treva McNally
Mount Stewart is situated on the Hillsborough River, surrounded by brooks filled with trout, a wildlife management area home to over fifty eagles, and wetlands where migrating waterfowl visit each fall. The Confederation Trail, the Tracadie Trail, and the Pigot Trail all converge here so it is fitting that the residents are building an Eco-Centre to interpret and celebrate the marvelous location of their town. In 2000 a volunteer committee began exploring the concept, and the tall shingled building in the centre of town is the result of all their hard work. Barb MacDonald chairs the Interpretive Committee and Earl Affleck chairs the Building Committee and the two of them, along with many others, have put in long hours to make the vision a reality.
The Eco-Centre, with its beautiful open ceiling of B.C. cedar beams, is scheduled to open the beginning of July. Located on the Confederation Trail just across the street from the Trailside Café, it provides a view of the historic Hillsborough River which visitors can enjoy from the second story observation area. An innovative design uses hot water from the ground for heat in winter and air conditioning in the summer, eliminating the need for a furnace. A window from the old Mount Stewart Railway Station, donated by Mount Stewart native Bruce Pigot, has been inserted into an interior wall and links the new building to Mount Stewart’s past.
The highlight of the building will be its interpretative area where historians have combined artifacts of the area with a series of interpretive panels in English, French and Mic’maq telling about the history of Mount Stewart. This part of the Island was once home to some of the first Acadians settlers, including the Gauthiers who settled in Mount Stewart before moving to Rustico, and some early Acadian dikes can still be found along the river. Another group with strong ties to this Hillsborough River region are the Mic’maq and their contribution will also be recognized.
Designed to be a community building, it will be home to the town library, an office for Ducks Unlimited, and a retail space for Glenroy Fine Furniture. Prominent on the first floor is a mini theatre where the Discovery Channel’s video of the Hillsborough River will be shown to visitors, and this space will also be available to the Library and other community groups who wish to use is. Other amenities include washrooms for Trail users, a gift shop for visitors, and some floating boat wharfs for adventurers who want to canoe or kayak from Charlottetown.
In July 2003, 2500 people used the Confederation Trail passing through Mount Stewart, and a further 4800 visited in August. Already blessed with natural features for outdoor enthusiasts, the town will now provide more reasons to visit and make Mount Stewart a destination area for nature lovers.