By Belle Hatfield
The community survey conducted by the Vanguard over the last three weeks is now closed for participation.
In total, 641 people participated in the survey, which was available by web link (462 responses) and on Facebook (179 responses).
A sign for the times. Esther Dares, who, with her husband Gil, operates the Harbour's Edge Bed and Breakfast on Vancouver Street, is announcing her determination to be ready when the Yarmouth ferry service resumes. CARLA ALLEN PHOTO
Hundreds of people weighed in on their view of Yarmouth County. The survey was designed to capture both what respondents most value about the region and what they see as the region’s greatest challenges. It also seeks to identify innovations that have worked in other communities.The survey, dubbed The Road to Georgetown -- Yarmouth’s response, was conducted to coincide with Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood’s All Hands on Deck town hall forum, which took place last Wednesday, Sept. 11, at the Mariners Centre. The data will be made available to the mayor’s organizing committee and will help frame the actions flowing from Wednesday’s meeting.
The survey is being conducted by the Vanguard in the lead-up to the Georgetown Conference, which will take place Oct. 3-5 in Georgetown, P.E.I. The conference is an initiative of Newspapers Atlantic. It will focus on rural issues and opportunities in an environment free of government influence. The idea is to identify the issues holding rural communities back and to promote solutions. It will engage people who can make change happen on a local level in communities throughout Atlantic Canada. Conference co-chairs are Wade MacLauchlan, president emeritus of the University of Prince Edward; John Bragg, founder of Oxford Fine Foods, the largest blueberry producer in the world; Gilles LePage, past CEO Mouvement des Caisses Populaires Acadiennes; and Donna Butt, founder of Rising Tide Theatre. In addition, Zita Cobb, founder of the Shorefast Foundation, will deliver a keynote address. Her foundation is remaking Fogo Island off the northeast coast of Newfoundland into an artists'retreat.
Mayor Mood is among four delegates from Yarmouth County selected by the convention’s organizing committee to attend the conference. Data from the Vanguard’s survey will be available to Yarmouth delegates.
The majority, around 75 per cent, are either extremely, moderately or slightly satisfied with their experience living in Yarmouth County. Asked to rate seven factors influencing the economy in southwest Nova Scotia from most important to least, declining population has been identified as the most pressing concern by about 25 per cent of respondents. Access to health services and the state of the tourism industry tied for second as the next most urgent, followed by transportation, the state of the fisheries and leadership. The state of the forestry industry was identified by respondents as the least urgent with 50 per cent ranking it seventh in terms of priority.
Although people are identifying a variety of attributes that they particularly appreciate about living in Yarmouth, two things stand out: the scenery and the people. Words like friendly and laid-back pop up repeatedly throughout the survey responses.
The survey also features three open-ended questions. To identify what people value, the question being asked is, “What do you like best about living in Yarmouth?”
One respondent commented, “The scenery and the people. Sunny, foggy, windy, rainy... it's always beautiful. The people are kind, laid- back, and like no others I've met across this country!”
The survey also asks people to identify what would most improve life in Yarmouth?
The following is an example of the responses:
“A facelift and a regular cleaning. As a newcomer to Yarmouth County what I notice first is the beautiful scenery. It is truly amazing!! I go to the ocean to photograph the sunsets to find myself standing in a pile of garbage that has been thrown overboard and made its way back to shore. I have had several visitors who have come after seeing the beautiful photos, and the garbage is the first thing they notice as well. It's hard to see past. All those fishermen who are on EI during the off-season could be fully employed cleaning up the mess they helped create, during the summer months! Not the most glamorous job, but it either needs to be done or some sort of rules about throwing plastic/rope/garbage overboard need to be seriously implemented!”
The last of the three open-ended questions captures innovations and ideas respondents have seen working in other communities. The survey asks, “What idea have you seen work somewhere else that might work here?”
One respondent recounted efforts in New England.
“Towns have revitalized because the local governments have made it easier for young entrepreneurs to set up businesses in little-used store fronts by reducing municipal taxes and reducing start up costs.”
Perhaps the most significant question in the survey was the last one. It invited respondents who want to help in Yarmouth County’s revitalization to provide contact information to be passed along to Mayor Mood’s committee. To date 45 per cent of respondents have provided their contact information.
Commenting on the willingness of survey participants to get involved, Mood said before last Wednesday's meeting, "The response to the survey is overwhelming, encouraging, but most of all, it's humbling. That the community would step up in such numbers, agreeing to do whatever it takes, speaks to who we are as a people. I have always said we are a resilient lot who step up to the plate with each opportunity put before us. In putting a picture together of the survey responses and the many who will come forward at the Sept. 11 meeting, it hit me full force what we can accomplish when we come together like this, with a purpose, all on the same page, looking forward. I truly hope each person understands the value in contributing to this effort. Simply put, wow."
Responses from the survey will be filtered and collated. Contact information will be passed along to the All Hands On Deck Committee and added to the pledges received at lst week's meeting to form a comprehensive database of individuals prepared to help.
Thanks to everyone who took part.