‘We will hold their feet to the fire’
says, and they get right at it and either rebuild the old aboiteau or put something in there that they can block that off and keep the tidal water out, that will be a big, big help,” he said, adding the sooner a fix can be put in place the better.
“I think that their hands were forced and they knew that they weren’t going to look very good if they didn’t do something. This is very, very good,” Thompson added.
The planned protest drew media from around the province — something protesters said would help add pressure on officials to get the situation addressed.
“We had such an excellent turnout and this is sort of the icing on the cake — if they make it happen,” said Thompson.
“The one thing is they have said it all in front of the media so we will hold their feet to the fire.”
Other areas of concern
For Brett King, an avid baseball player, the potential loss of ballfields on HMCC property was enough to make him stand outside over the lunch chanting for positive change.
“Saving the baseball fields is important to me because there’s been a bunch of generations playing on these baseball fields, and baseball has a big history in Hantsport. If we lose those two fields, then minor baseball could be in a lot of trouble in Hantsport,” he said, holding a sign that read ‘Save our two baseball fields.’
He said if the bank near HMCC’s property line erodes a few more feet, they could be in big trouble.
But saving baseball wasn’t his only concern. He said the failed aboiteau has affected a variety of groups.
“I really hope that the government takes this seriously and gets this fixed. It’s endangering a lot more than just the baseball fields. It’s endangering wildlife habitat, the cemetery and it’s messing up... the environment.”
Another concern brought up by the group he was with was the loss of wildlife habitat. Since the tidal waters consistently flood the former fields and marsh, several animals have been displaced. For example, the red-wing blackbird, which once flitted back and forth near the entrance to the community, has not been seen in months. Deer travel routes have been disrupted, and turtles that once thrived by the highway are no longer being spotted.
Evan Merks and Courtney Shay live on Schurman Road, adjacent to the failed aboiteau and Halfway River, and must import water due to saltwater contamination of their well.
The pair said they hope the government will address their situation, as well as those who have lost property value or suffered losses due to the aboiteau failure.
“As great as it is that they’re going to reinstate it (the aboiteau), what’s that mean for our property? Our well is still contaminated. They’re saying it’s seven to eight years before the land is back to being arable for plant life. So as far as water, I’m doubtful we will ever have fresh water again,” said Merks.
Shay said they’ve been dealing with a very trying situation since last year when the well went.
“It’s past frustrating at this point. It’s very aggravating and it’s almost personal now,” said Shay. “They get to go home; they get to shower and wash their clothes. They have no worries about water and we don’t have fresh running water.”
During the brief announcement following the protest, Porter was asked what plans are in place to help families affected by the failed aboiteau. He said he has relayed their concerns.
“I have expressed their concerns obviously. I’m trying to address those too. We’re working on that and will continue to do so,” he said, before adding that there is still an active court case involving the province and the owner of Windsor and Hantsport Railway Ltd.
Ray Benjamin, from Bishopville, and Eric Vaughan, of Hantsport, were equipped with signs for the protest. Vaughan, who has lived in the community his entire life, said he’s extremely concerned with the state of the bridge and the eroding riverbanks.
The Halfway River bridge was reduced to one lane of traffic as approximately 500 citizens marched along the roadway, displaying signs urging the government to fix the failed Hantsport aboiteau.
From left, Mary Smith, Heidi King and Brynn King showed their support for getting the Halfway River aboiteau fixed. Brynn, who is passionate about wildlife, was quite concerned for the animals that have been affected by the situation in Hantsport
Hants West MLA Chuck Porter addresses the crowd gathered inside the Hantsport Baptist Church following a well-attended protest Jan. 4.
Evan Merks and Courtney Shay live on Schurman Road, adjacent to the failed aboiteau and Halfway River. They say their well was contaminated by saltwater due to the situation, and now must import water for use.