Sunday, February 28, 2010

Letter to Ministry of Tourism

Hon. Hédard Albert

Acting Minister

Tourism and Parks NB

670 King Street

Fredericton, NB E3B 1G1

February 28, 2010

Gerry Hicks

The Compass Institute on Campobello Island

Campobello Island Health & Wellness Committee

36 North Road

Welshpool, NB E5E 1C1

Dear Honourable Minister Albert

In light of your very recent appointment as Acting Minister of Tourism and Parks, I would like to take a moment to introduce myself, the cause of the International Friends Committee and the Compass Institute on Campobello Island, and address our concerns regarding our very recent negotiations with the Department of Tourism and Parks.

My name is Gerry Hicks and I am Executive Director of the International Friends Committee / Compass Institute (IFC/CI) which is a Not-for-Profit Organization founded in 1988 and located on Campobello Island, NB. While involved in nearly every facet of Island life through the Volunteer Committees and management of the Rural Initiatives of the Campobello Island Health and Wellness Advisory Committee (CIHWAC), our overall mandate is to facilitate a new era of self-sufficiency for Campobello Island. In response to your recent decision not to extend the lease for The Adam’s Estate, I am writing to respectfully request that you reserve any decisions until proper and transparent negotiations involving all interested parties have been concluded. For the short term, we ask that your department reconsider their decision and immediately grant a lease extension and allow us to continue to manage the Adam’s Estate Lodge for the 2010 tourist season.

The CIHWAC was formed 2 years ago as collaboration between the Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation (AHSC) lead by Senior Researcher, Dr. Verle Harrop (PhD MIT). The mandate of the collaboration was to conduct a multi-phased Needs Assessment that would examine the overall Health and Wellness of the residents according the criteria in the 12 Determinants of Health as established by Health Canada. A comprehensive island-wide survey completed by more than 70% of residents was conducted to identify and quantify the needs of residents and provide the foundation for next steps in addressing inadequacies in the access and delivery of services. This process identified Economic Development and Employment as the two most crucial elements adversely impacting the long-term viability of the island. As a result, the CIHWAC, under the direction of The Compass Institute, mobilized to assume the stewardship of the Adam’s Estate to not only salvage the invaluable employment opportunities but, to create a business unit that would provide the funding for the various programs and initiatives going forward.

Transfer of The Adam’s Estate property to another agency will certainly undermine our ongoing Needs Assessment and have immediate and profound socio-economic impacts for all residents that your Ministry needs to consider.

This CIHWAC process and the overall self-sufficiency mandate of the IFC/CI led us to our initial meetings with former Minister of Tourism and Parks, Stuart Jamieson, in January 2009. Allow me to provide you with a snapshot of that frank discussion and a bit of history on the matter with details available for discussion as we are certain a dialogue was meant to include us. At that initial meeting, Minister Jamieson spoke to us regarding the possibilities that existed between the Department of Tourism and Parks with regards to securing the Adams Estate and Herring Cove Provincial Park through a partnership with a Not-for-Profit organization on Campobello Island. Along with outlining current financial data of the Herring Cove Provincial Park, Mr. Jamieson also outlined two scenarios for consideration. First, since Campobello Island did not have a local government, there was the possibility of us acquiring the 1400+ acre park as a Not-for-Profit Organization until such time the Island secures governance, at which time the property would be included in the newly formed land use plan. “Fast-tracking” decisions, as your department refers to it, would circumvent this process and be considered both premature and irresponsible. Second, a possibility existed for a long term partnership with the Province of NB and the Department of Tourism and Parks.

We have been working diligently on various proposals and scenarios with regards to the Herring Cove Provincial Park for the long term and the Adam’s Estate Lodge in the short term with regards to their potential for broadening our appeal to the travelling public and continued access by the residents of Campobello Island. The Adams Estate plays a key role in the ongoing pursuit of economic development and self-sufficiency for the island through direct employment and reinvestment of any profits back into ongoing community initiatives. Its demise will be met with considerable immediate hardships that will echo for years to come. Since Mr. Jamieson laid out a timeline for his team in conjunction with ourselves that set forth fulfilling the transition of the property to the International Friends Committee, we have remained clear and forthright in our intentions to work in partnership with the Department of Tourism and Parks. The timeline included a meeting with Hon. Greg Thompson and his Special Assistant Team to pursue ideas for future development of the Adams Estate and other parts of the present Herring Cove Provincial Park system.

Minister Jamieson’s role as the Regional Minister for Southern NB subsequently led to a meeting with Maureen Conley, Rick Hunter and Stephen Smith from MP Greg Thompson’s Office to discuss the mutual interests and responsibilities from both a provincial and federal perspective. Subsequently, we have letters and correspondence from Mr. Stuart Jamieson, various members of your department and Greg Thompson’s office that substantiate our continued commitment to the process. The frequent turn over of staff in the Department of Tourism and Parks has always made it challenging to maintain continuity but we have taken every precaution to do so.

The Adam’s Estate Lodge, in particular, has become a jewel for the tourism industry on Campobello Island. The IFC/CI invested over $35,000 in upgrading the property since acquiring the lease in late August of 2009. We invested money in good faith from a Not-For-Profit organization based upon direction we received from the Department of Tourism and Parks and those changes showcased the property in a way which brought nothing but praise to your Ministry. The Board of Directors of the IFC/CI have continued to contribute their own time and money to ensure that the Herring Cove Provincial Park property thrives and remains of, about and for the benefit of the community and those who are fortunate enough to visit the island of Campobello. This deficit as a result of your decision takes operational funding directly from our programs.

After everything the IFC/CI, as a Not-For-Profit Community Organization, have done in good faith with the Department of Tourism and Parks, it was inconceivable to simply receive two days notification from new Director, Alain Basque stating he would be on Campobello Island (Jan 22, 2010) to pick up the keys and would not be offering an extension to their lease. It is of utmost concern to us that our repeated requests for face-to-face meetings to continue the dialogue on moving forward have met with such unresponsiveness by your Department. After all of our meetings and hard work by a dedicated board and staff we did not even receive an explanation as to the decision that was made. To be certain, considering our relentless efforts to continue a dialogue with the department, this abrupt notification has been met with disbelief by the IFC/CI, the CIHWAC and the residents of Campobello Island. In the past year Campobello Island has seen the closure of its one bank and the continued demise of its fishing industry. We cannot afford to see more job losses, nor can the travelling public or Island residents afford to lose public access to an established property.

We have been told on numerous occasions that the Department of Tourism and Parks had not been in discussion with the Roosevelt Campobello International Park (RCIP) with regards to acquiring the Adam’s Estate or the Herring Cove Provincial Park. During the past few weeks, we were made aware that Roosevelt Park Management met with its Senior Staff to tell them that THEY had been approached by the Department of Tourism and Parks regarding the acquisition of the Provincial Park property. It was again, with disbelief and shock, that we learned about simultaneous sidebar negotiations with the RCIP while your Department assured us as late as January 26th, 2010 of this year that the Department was definitely not entertaining other proposals nor had made any decisions but what looking at their options.

The mission of the International Friends Committee / The Compass Institute is to empower the community to become increasingly self-reliant, to develop healthy lifestyles, a life-long passion for learning and focus on our own social responsibility. We are proud to have continually operated in good faith, assuming responsibility whilst waiting on contractual commitments, and managed to stay true to our vision of the restoration, preservation and evolution of the Adams Estate and Herring Cove Provincial Park in the process.

In closing, I would like to reiterate our desire for an immediate extension to the existing lease and resumption of negotiations towards reaching a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship with regards to the stewardship of the Herring Cove Park property. We expect an immediate response from your office and that negotiations will resume accordingly.

Regards,

Gerry Hicks

Executive Director, The Compass Institute on Campbello Island (CI)

Chairman, Campobello Island Health and Wellness Committee (CIHWAC)

Cc: Premiere Graham, Greg Thompson (MP), Tony Huntjens (MLA)

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