Sunday, August 24, 2008

What if no one dreamed of wild places?

Five blissful days of rest and lazy drifting at Mount Carleton Provincial Park have left me grateful for those who dream.

In 1883, Edward Jack, a provincial surveyor, dreamed of preserving a piece of the Appalachian Mountain Range to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Loyalist landing in New Brunswick. His vision only became reality in 1970 when Crown Land was set aside to create Mount Carleton Provincial Park, forever protecting the majesty of these mountains and chains of pristine lakes for the enjoyment of those who appreciate wilderness.

Evening paddles on silent lakes of sky and cloud, morning mist drifting through valleys, mountain hikes through endless forests and meanderings along mossy brooks and waterfalls…such are the gifts of Mount Carleton.

In my mind, I still see fish leaping from polished ebony, the darting swoop of a pair of kingfishers, a trio of moose feeding at water’s edge, the watchful curiosity of a quartet of loons, and a sunrise that transformed the dark haunting presence of Sagamook Mountain to the warmth of a blush. It's not surprising our Aboriginal peoples considered this sacred ground.

Slow, watchful wanderings through dappled forests, the magnificence of the sun’s rise and sun’s falling, and the silence of night broken only by a loon’s haunting echo across the water or coyotes calling the moon - these invoked such tranquility of spirit that I felt bereft with our leaving. Such is why we need time in wild spaces.

As my kayak slid through a sunset reflected in Bathurst Lake, the space of silence broken only by a distant chatter of a squirrel, I couldn’t help but feel deep, abiding gratitude that someone, somewhere, long before my birth, dreamed of saving this wild place.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What if Cape Enrage Loses its Spirit?

This weekend, I paid a visit to Dennison and Ann Tate, who operate the lighthouse, tearoom, adventures and interpretive programs at Cape Enrage. I have this small - and very special - list of people who stay true to their beliefs, give selflessly and act courageously and this pair are certainly on that list.

For sixteen years, they’ve given their spirit and time and vision to develop one of the most beautiful places in Canada – the Cape Enrage Lighthouse. Together, and with considerable financial risk, they took it from derelict eyesore to an innovative adventure and interpretive model that is innovative, sustainable and truly unique.

It’s a place of learning and growth. It’s a place to breathe raw nature and beauty, to encounter challenge, to test one’s mettle, to experience the exhilaration of personal achievement. Visitors come here to see the Fundy coast at it's most formidable and spectacular. Youth and adults from all over come here for outdoor training and to challenge themselves – whether for survival, education and adventure skills, emergency preparedness, or rope and climbing training.

But the Tate's commitment goes much deeper than that. Through example, they’ve encouraged a personal creed of sharing and service amongst the young people who work and learn at the site; a culture and attitude that has changed many lives and set many paths. In this sense, they are not just keepers of the lighthouse, but keepers of our future.

The sad part is that Dennison and Ann are tired, now. They’ve been the heart and soul of Cape Enrage for too long – every powerful heartbeat now drains them. It’s time to step back and make room for the next generation of visionaries. That, at least, is their hope.

The Tates presented an innovative succession plan to the Province of NB and now await a decision. Will the Province share the beauty of this vision? Or will it sterilize it with bureaucracy? Or squelch it entirely?

All of us here in this region – those who value our wild and beautiful spaces - wait breathlessly. The nature of a lighthouse is to be a beacon in times of trouble and it serves its purpose best in the midst of tumult. Cape Enrage has certainly been a beacon for youth. And it's weathered its fair share of tumult through its history. Can it weather this?

Cape Enrage is so much more than a tourist attraction. It’s where spirit and land and people exist together in synergy. And this is something to cherish and protect.