Perth-Andover resident Rod MacIntosh has conceived an inspired and visionary plan to revitalize the Village of Perth-Andover.
All of our small rural villages are under heavy attack by government forces concerned only with money and their political futures, which are dictated by corporate interests…not people, communities or quality of life.
In order for our villages to survive and thrive we need to take command of our own futures and think outside the box.
Rod’s plan is innovative and inspired and we hope these ideas get folks fired up, and thinking about new and innovative ways to create the hometowns of our dreams!
Over the past few months I have watched with “horror” as residents of our little community have made poorly advised preparations to destroy what remains of our village core. Many of our historic residences are now being ripped off ancient foundations and hauled away. Others are simply smashed with heavy equipment and buried in land fills.Very soon, the little that remains of our community’s fibre will be lost forever.
We are allowing hastily prepared regulations from an uncaring Government, uninformed planning from our Municipal Council and greedy opportunists to dictate our future. With all of this “orchestrated devastation” underway, we now concentrate on plans to hide this catastrophe by developing community gardens and skate board parks along the river for the few residents that will remain in years to come.
I have attached a file simply called “A Plan to save Our Village”. Although not perfect, I believe the implementation of this plan would give the Village of Perth-Andover a “Fighting Chance” for survival – something it definitely does not have right now!
These are my last words on the subject. As I have been reminded several time over the years, I live “outside” of the village. I have always been very passionate about this community, its history and future. But now I wonder if ANYONE ELSE REALLY IS????
Have a read of my little plan attached. It is unique, carefully researched and WOULD DEFINITELY WORK!!!!!!
Take care and GOOD LUCK to you all!!
What we now know as the “Village of Perth-Andover”, (the amalgamation 2 villages – Perth and Andover in 1966), has a prosperous and dignified history along the banks of the upper Saint John River valley. With first settlement dating as far back as 1788, this community became “the” largest center of thriving commerce in Victoria County. “Andover’s development as the district’s center of commerce and distribution, were within the two or three decades around 1849 (Footprints of New Brunswick)”. Again in 1904, the area was promoted as “one of the best summer resorts in New Brunswick” with a combined population of over 850; these 2 communities offered such amenities as: 2 CP rail stations, 2 post offices, 20 stores, 5 hotels, 2 sawmills, 1 grist mill, 1 steam carriage factory, 1 carding & wool mill, 1 creamery and 5 churches (NB Archives)!
Over the decades, we have been proud to claim dozens of famous New Brunswickers as “our own” including: Violet Gillett, author and painter (member of the Order of Canada, 1976); John B. McNair, 23 Premier of the Province of New Brunswick (Order of Canada, 1967); J. Stewart Brooks, Legislative of the Assembly of New Brunswick (1952-1976); Albert Edgar Ritchie, Rhodes scholar, works with British Government & United Nations in 1940s (Order of Canada recipient); Graydon Nicholas, 30th Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick; Matt Andersen, Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/guitarist; Shirley Bear, feminist, activist, and artist, (Order of Canada in 2011).
Unfortunately, our village is “conveniently located” in close proximity to other larger and much more developed commercial centers. Years ago, travel was limited and most residents of a specific area took their business to the closest community for trade. Today however, the amazing new development of high speed highways now criss-cross the Province in almost every direction allowing travellers quick and easy access to communities farther afoot. Woodstock is a mere 35 minutes now – Grand Falls is even closer at 15 minutes. And if you wish to access the markets and stores across the border in Maine, both Caribou and Presque Isle can be reached quicker that it takes to have a nice shower!
ALL of these centers have attracted the attention and firmly established outlets of the larger “chain store” variety (Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, Lowes, etc.) as well as dozens of other shopping opportunities while you’re in town visiting. In our area, it’s now common to see people make 2 trips a day to Grand Falls or “over across” to conveniently make purchases.
Coming to Grips
We must first come to the realization that “the ways of the past” are gone forever. Friday nights and Saturdays with both sides of the street packed by visitors doing their weekly shopping will never return! Over the years, we have instigated dozens of “Shop Local” promotions with incentives encouraging people to keep their business in Perth-Andover – few, if any have helped much.
To simplify matters, let’s look at this with a specific example – you need to purchase a toaster . . . Years ago, you would go to town and pick up “the one” they had at our local business. Or you might order one from Eaton’s or Simpsons Sears and wait a week for it to be delivered. Selection was limited, but the cost of both time and money to travel farther limited your choices. Today, you can simply get in your car, and in less than 20 minutes stand in front of shelves filled with all options of toasters in an array of colors and design – 2-slice, 4-slice, even bagel toasters! Or with the new advent of the world-wide web, you can now sit at your kitchen table, place an order “on-line”, and have it shipped to your door with same-day shipping!
If you are a retailer in the village of Perth-Andover, how do you combat these many options available to your customers to encourage them to shop local? Can it be done? I think not! Small stores in smaller communities simply cannot afford the luxury of maintaining the massive stock that larger “chain stores” now carry. Even the most “loyal” residents will eventually make the choice to travel further for more options in shopping. This is simply the “evolution” of modern-day shopping with little we can do as a community to resist.
Relocation is not an Option
In addition to the above problems contributing specifically to the steadily depleting business district in Perth-Andover, several disasters have been at the forefront of our community’s history. The great fire of 1977 destroyed many businesses along Main Street Perth that were never encouraged to rebuild. And then several events of catastrophic flooding over the last 35 years have steadily eroded what was left.
With the last (and worst) flood only 12 months past, the overall opinion seems to be “relocation.” This idea is basically a continuation of a plan first initiated in the 1980s resulting from an earlier flooding disaster. At this time, we took the recommendations of our Governments and began moving our community landmarks and historic homes “hither and yon” to higher ground behind the village. This was the beginning of the biggest mistake we have ever made! Again, if any research was done at all, the evidence is proof-positive that “community relocation never works” – this is not an opinion – it’s a fact! Relocation of segments or complete communities, immediately destroy their internal fibre and history – the most important aspects of every community’s existence. When you add to this equation, the total lack of planning and organization in implementation, the result is what we have partially completed now – homes and businesses moved “anywhere and everywhere” in abandoned potato fields and quickly sub-divided farmland up and away from the river plain. This is not, or ever will be Perth-Andover again! In years to come we will simply be “a scattered community of homes along the highway “somewhere between Florenceville and Grand Falls!” In order to survive, we must formulate an immediate plan to preserve as much of the village as remains – securing its businesses and residents from the threat of future flooding.
One viable option that has been discussed in the past, would be to create an “elevated bench terrace” along the back streets of both villages to accommodate the moving “up and back” of businesses and residents. This would accomplish several goals: It would virtually guarantee their future safety from future river flooding; it would develop excellent areas for residential and business expansion within the community; these new “front streets” would allow further development options of increased areas along the river which may include such ideas as tree-lined boulevards, green areas and possibly the construction of aesthetic diking systems along the riverbank to further divert spring flows. Although totally transforming the look of our village, this option would allow us to “remain” in our present location, add greatly to its potential for future development and aesthetic beauty!
Attack on the Future!
So, what can be done? Do we simply accept this modern-day evolution of shopping, and disaster destruction? Are these simply “facts of life” that will eventually lead to the demise of our community? If you do any research at all, the evidence is everywhere! Hundreds of small communities have disappeared, or are on the verge of fading away with very similar parameters and situations that our village currently displays. Most, have simply accepted the eventual . . .
However, “desperate times call for desperate measures” and I feel that the ONLY WAY to save our community, will be to drastically adjust our way of thinking immediately by adopting a much more aggressive and unique platform for rejuvenation. Several stages of community rebirth will be necessary to implement this solution:
Organization and Planning
Organization, planning and public input on a scale we have never experienced before in our little village will be necessary to implement this community-saving solution. Much of this work will be able to be completed by organizing several levels of volunteer committees to attack specific questions and problems. Timelines must then be established – the evolution of a “community rejuvenation plan” will need to be extremely well organised and implementation must be prompt. In addition, we must realize that there will definitely be the need to recruit and hire “experts” to give us recommendations in specific fields of this project that we do not have the sufficient expertise. This process will be lengthy and require thousands of hours in planning and consultation. But it can and must be done!
Recommendations in the past have succeeded
Several times in our past, our Municipality has hired private consultants to perform various studies looking for innovative solutions. Results have varied, but one recommendation that has always been voiced included some form of “attract or implement more annual festivals and/or events within the community.” This we have already done! Both “The Gathering of the Scots Festival” and “The Larlee Creek Hullabaloo” have become major attractions in our community annually. Each year, hundreds of visitors return to our village to attend these events.
This in one thing we have done right! However, to ensure their continued existence and growth, a partnership of strong Municipal support is critical with both organizations! Both of these groups include hundreds of volunteers that work tirelessly towards each event annually but without the encouragement and backing of the Municipality, their future will be short-lived.
This does not simply equate to “more money” and financial commitments from the Village. A definite “concern for continued success” must be offered from local Government. Many forms of assistance in addition to monetary donations can greatly assist these events to continue to grow within our community. Direct economic spin-offs for our local businesses are of major concern here. With strategic planning inviting the community to become more directly involved with these events, a huge economic impact can be realized annually!
Our “old” focus on business
Over the years, our Municipal government has worked diligently attempting to recruit and/or entice new businesses and manufacturing to our community with various incentives. Some of these have been successful – others not so much – most short-lived. Unfortunately, most of these options have resulted in one consistent theme – low-paying “labour-based” employment – this is not the direction we need!
As our young people mature and graduate from our schools and universities, they begin to investigate opportunities to better their lives – rarely does this include any preference of working for minimum wage for the rest of their lives! Perth-Andover is a wonderful community with everything a town needs for conveniences: state-of-the-art recreational facilities, plans now for a new hospital, and excellent modern schools – many of our youth would love to return to this community to establish lives for themselves and their future families.
But with no options available for stable and good-paying employment they feel obligated to abandon their roots in search of a better future. What remains is a “retirement community” with no regular rejuvenation of its population. Again, this is not the direction we need to focus on to ensure a viable future for our village.
A “NEW” Focus on Business
So, besides a couple of great festivals now hosted annually in our community, what else can we focus on to implement this plan to save our village? This is where we all need to “start thinking outside the box.” As detailed earlier, the days of old are definitely gone forever! But, are their alternative solutions – definitely! The focus on rebuilding this community MUST be based on a theme for “aggressive future development” that will be both unique and sustainable for Perth-Andover!
We MUST focus on industry and businesses that have not yet been considered for development in our Province. With a massive internal plan including exacting organization, recruitment and professional implementation, I feel the solution detailed below will transform the Village of Perth-Andover into a center of commerce, tourism and settlement within the Province of New Brunswick well into our future!
Foundation for Development
Part 1- Innovative Business Approach
Here’s where the work really begins! In order to ensure a viable future for Perth-Andover’s business community we must develop something not yet initiated – something that will attract people from across the Province (and beyond) to our village regularly. It’s simple really; we need to have something they want – that nobody else offers! I believe the most viable solution to this is the creation of an “Outlet Shopping Community” – the organized creation of a new shopping “mecca” enticing visitors to come here to purchase specialities they can only get here! However, there is much more to this than simply creating an opportunity for business establishment and waiting for things to happen. This is where the “aggressive” component of planning comes in – enticement is the key to this plan’s success!
We would carefully plan, design and prepare for construction, several aesthetically appealing structures to accommodate retail outlets. Their eventual construction would need to be central within the village down-town with prominent attractive appearances and convenient public access.
The “enticement” of potential outlet retailers must be carefully considered. Why should they take the risk of coming to our village – what can we offer them in return? To put it simply, without shoppers there are no business opportunities – conversely, without businesses, there will be no shoppers! Implementation of a plan of this magnitude will take time and potential retailers will need to be offered “incentives” to attract interest. This can be done by drastically reducing their risk and initial investment: No rent fees would be expected from these new outlet facilities for a period of 2 years – in addition free municipal services (water, power, etc.) would be supplied.
Then, after 2 years, financial evaluations of each businesses individual’s success, submitted financial statements, customer traffic surveys, etc. would allow the Municipality to negotiate a plan to begin partial financial return from these merchants. A foundation plan outlining the detailed equation that would be used to begin “rent & services” payments would need to be established prior to recruitment contact. This completed enticement package must have a professionally formulated and well-planned ahead on potential client contact.
(And most important) comes the “recruitment” component of this plan. Here I would recommend the assistance of professionals knowledgeable in the field to assist us in formulating an exact plan of recruitment and then to approach potential retail outlets with our proposal. A phone call from the village office is not the way to go here!
Foundation for Development
Part 2- Community Infrastructure
With the attraction and development of a resurrected and vibrant business district, will come huge financial spin-offs for our local residents and businesses! Visitors will need accommodations and places to eat – our existing motels and restaurants will prosper plus others will be needed to cater to the increasing flows of retail traffic. With more restaurants and motels, comes more viability for such things as – our 2 festivals! We will gradually acquire the community infrastructure needed for visitors to come earlier, and stay longer! This is one vital component that our village now lacks to allow these summer celebrations to expand beyond “day-visitor” status.
Foundation for Development
Part 3 – Tobique First Nations
One major player in “strategy discussions” directly impacting the future of our village is most often completely ignored – our neighbours to the north – the people of Tobique’s First Nation. With a population of over 2000, their role in planning and implementation of solutions are critical to Perth-Andover’s future! Specifically to Tobique’s planning for their future, considerable discussions have evolved for the future implementation of a tourism-friendly “Maliseet Cultural Settlement.” When completed, this will create a substantial increase in tourism to the area combined with a direct economic influence Perth-Andover and hundreds of sustainable jobs for our First Nations People. A much closer partnership must be immediately established between Tobique and Perth-Andover to merge and improve planning considered for each community.
Foundation for Development
Part 4 – Tourism
As already stated, tourism must become our most important concern. Sadly, statistics gathered at the Tourist Information Site along the highway in Perth-Andover over the past few years has shown that most travellers are only concerned about information on “the quickest route through New Brunswick” with their sights firmly set on Nova Scotia and PEI. Provincially, we have made a horrible effort in tourism promotion over the years! Our Provincial signage laws prohibit effective advertising (unlike Nova Scotia and PEI), and for some reason, we feel we have very little of interest to travellers from away. We mostly just sit quietly on our verandahs and watch the traffic – thousands of busses and cars each day, speed quickly through New Brunswick!
Here we need to really have a “think-tank” created. With the resurgence of our downtown community, more shoppers will be visiting. But what can be done to further entice travelers to STOP in Perth-Andover – actually make plans to come here as a destination? Again, one of our biggest nemeses comes into play – “The Mighty Saint John” – without a doubt the most underutilised potential tourism attraction we have, is just waiting to be developed! Ideas for tourism enhancement are endless! We already have interest from one of the Province’s largest Bass Tournaments. How about the creation of a marina, daily tours from the decks of a recreated “sternwheeler” riverboat, rowing regattas? And in the winter we could consider hosting International snowmobile drag races or even horse and sulky races on a slick oval track (as were so popular here in the 1930s)! Maybe it’s time we “took-back” something from this river that has been causing us so much pain in recent times??
For almost 225 years we have existed here along the majestic Saint John River. Through fires, floods and all other forms of adversity and disaster, we have never “packed up and moved!” Through an amazing combination of community spirit and individual determination, we found a way to “stay” in the community our ancestors created for us so many years ago!
However, with all that has developed in recent years, we are now at “the most critical point in our community’s existence.” With this, we can take one of two paths into history . . .
We can take the “easy road” and allow an uncaring Government, with no interest in our community’s future, to “dangle” dollars in front our noses encouraging us to submit to their fabricated solutions of relocation. This will almost certainly spell out a slow and agonizing death for our community within 30 years!
Or, we can take matters into our own hands (something we should have done years ago). We can get organized, stop thinking about the immediate bottom dollar, and look ahead with “developmental thinking” and a common goal of resurrecting this community for the future. Granted, the ways of the past are definitely gone. No longer can we claim “the districts center of commerce and distribution.” But with a “new and innovate” focused approach towards our community’s eventual footprint, commerce, industry and residents, the rest, as they say – will soon follow. The neglect that has been cast upon Perth-Andover will take years – even decades to reverse.
Titus Maccius Plautus, a roman poet/philosopher who lived from 254 BC to 184 BC once said, “You must first spend money to make money.” And granted, most, if not all, work needed to ensure a future for our community will cost millions. But in the end, this struggle is not anything about money- it’s about survival! Can it be done? Are we too late? Thousands of questions can be asked.
However, in the end, only one “real” question needs to be answered:
“Do we want to pack-up and run – or stay and fight”!!
The decision is only ours to make . . . .
Emotionally created & respectively submitted by:
Rod W. MacIntosh, CET
Certified Engineering Technologist
3rd Generation Resident of Perth-Andover
Events Chairman, Gathering of the Scots Festival
35 years of Volunteering in our Community
Owner of Business Destroyed in 2012 Flooding – Black Lion Restaurant & Pub