The St. Mary’s River Association Education and Interpretation Centre provided an ideal setting, Aug. 12, for an important and generous announcement.
During an afternoon celebration event, Bonnie Sutherland, Nova Scotia Nature Trust executive director, announced that David and Faye Sobey were entrusting 30 acres of property, along the St. Mary’s River, to the organization.
David Sobey was on-hand for the announcement; one of many who filled the centre to capacity.
“The Sobey property at Mitchell’s Pool, just north of Sherbrooke Village, includes 30 acres of beautiful floodplain forest, a rare ecosystem in Nova Scotia,” a Nature Trust release about the announcement read.
“Its large oaks, maples, and yellow birch provide cooling shade, essential for the river’s aquatic life. The property’s still-water, brooks, swamp and island provide important habitat for a diversity of wildlife; from ducks and forest birds to amphibians and reptiles, including wood turtles, a species on Canada’s endangered species list.”
The release noted how the property adds to Nature Trust’s other protected areas.
“The property provides critical habitat for several endangered species but is also steeped in memories for the Sobey family who have been visiting this part of the river for more than 80 years,” it stated.
“The property builds on long-time Nature Trust conservation work on the St. Mary’s River, one of Nova Scotia’s most ecologically rich and important rivers. The new property brings their conservation network to nine protected areas encompassing more than 800 acres of important forests and wetlands on this river.”
Sutherland is quoted in the release expressing her gratitude towards the Sobeys.
“David and Faye Sobey’s generous gift of land on the St. Mary’s is a significant conservation achievement,” she said. “It protects some of the last intact, mature floodplain forest in the province, and critical habitat for endangered birds and turtles.”
She had a similar refrain when talking to the Casket immediately following the announcement.
“It is, it’s wonderful,” she said when asked about the gift.
“One of the things I love about the work we do is it’s always coming from the heart; Nova Scotians are incredibly passionate about place and land. Places where families have made their memories, spending time fishing, canoeing, being out in the wild, and it’s that passion and sense of comfort that encourages people, like Mr. and Mrs. Sobey and so many others, to step forward and help Nova Scotia Nature Trust. To get involved; if they have the capacity to give land, or even by becoming a member or volunteer … it really is heart-warming.”
She talked more about the area being entrusted.
“The St. Mary’s River really is one of the best examples in Nova Scotia of what our wild rivers would have been like had we not had so much significant change to all of our rivers,” Sutherland said.
“Some of the best examples in Nova Scotia of intact Acadian forests, old-growth forest, incredible stands of Hemlock and Pine that go way back, well over 100 years old, some are 200 or more, and that used to be all over Nova Scotia, but 99.9 per cent of it is gone … virtually all of our flood plain forest.
“Our rivers are cleared right to the shore so, ecologically, the opportunity to preserve those intact ecosystems is so exciting. And associated with that, the St. Mary’s River is also home to endangered wildlife; birds and turtles and a number of plants that are rare in the province. There are these gems of nature which are still intact here; so it has been exciting for us to see, over time, that we’ve been able to assemble those [parcels of land] and really protect a corridor of wild Nova Scotia along this river.”
Also speaking to the Casket after the announcement, Sobey said he was “very pleased” to be able to turn the land over to Nature Trust.
“It’s close to where our family has always had what we call our ‘camp’ on the river,” he said, as folks on-hand at the announcement continued to mingle and enjoy the celebratory cake made for the occasion.
“I’m glad to see Nova Scotia Nature Trust is going to take it and, as she [Sutherland] said, ‘keep it forever.’”
Sobey talked more about his and his family’s connection to the area.
“I’ve been coming down here since the late 1930s,” he said.
“It’s certainly a special area for my wife and I, we even had our honeymoon down here. It has always been a dear place to myself, my family, of two generations; now my son Paul and his family come down and use it.
“I think what Nova Scotia Nature Trust is doing in this area is going to be great for the river. It’s one of those rivers that has a little difficulty in the summertime keeping its water; maybe a little too much cutting in back.
“When there is land like that along the river, which can be set aside, it’s going to help its long life and to maintain the beauty of the river … I think it will go a long way.”
The release talks more about supporters for conservation work along the St. Mary’s River.
“The Nature Trust’s conservation work on the St. Mary’s River, and protecting Nova Scotia’s freshwater and endangered species legacy, is generously supported by many individuals and organizations,” the release stated.
“Major supporters include the Nova Scotia Crown Share Land Legacy Trust, the David and Faye Sobey Foundation, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Marguerite Hubbard Charitable Foundation.
“Donations to support conservation work on the river, and conservation efforts across the province, can be made at www.nsnt.ca or by calling 902-425-5263.”