Developer says he is saving, not sacrificing, Strum Island
MAHONE BAY - The president of Strum Island Development says he has no intention of destroying the island, but is instead, trying to save it.
Fred Kern was responding to accusations made recently by Gord Tate, owner of Mahone Bay Kayaks, who said the islands in the bay are being threatened by "thoughtless development."
Mr. Tate has circulated a petition which states that the integrity of the islands "must supersede whimsy, ego and greed."
He said the development of Strum, although within the realms of the law, "is a portrait of the islands overall, and the way it's going to go."
Mr. Kern, whose company purchased the island two years ago, said the work being carried on at Strum is not detrimental, but is necessary to stop the island from washing away.
"I'm a developer, that's true," Mr. Kern said. "But I'm a quality developer. I don't do myself any service by doing what [I'm accused] of doing."
Mr. Kern said that Strum Island has been eroding into the sea at an alarming rate for a number of years.
To stop this, he is constructing a sea wall on the southeast side of the island, which, in conjunction with the three terraces he is building up the bank, should halt the process.
"The only way you can stop erosion is to take the weight off," he explained. "In the winter time, it rains and freezes, and that whole hillside becomes one solid mass like an avalanche."
He said when the ocean hits the bottom of the mass, it breaks loose and slides into the sea.
The wall is being built with granite boulders which are being trucked to the island by barge from a quarry on the mainland.
Geotech paper is being used to retain soil by filtering any run-off which may occur through the rock.
As well, about $100,000 worth of drainage ditches are being installed which are designed to divert excess surface water.
The road that was built on the island was necessary to support the trucks and excavators required to put the boulders in place.
Mr. Kern said he has obtained all the necessary permits from various levels of government, and would have started the project last year had he been in possession of the permits at that time.
Josh Comeau lays geotech paper in preparation for the installation of granite boulders on Strum Island. Developer Fred Kern said that construction of the wall, along with a drainage system and terraces, is necessary to protect the shores of the island from erosion and save it for the future. Robert Hirtle photo
Leonard Eisnor, who has spent a lifetime around the bay, said he has watched, not only Strum, but other islands fall victim to the problem of erosion.
"I would say that shore has gone 50 to 75 feet in the last 50 years," he said. "The whole thing's just washed away."
He said that the recent silt discolouration of the water following hurricane Gustav has been going on for years.
"We used to set traps off here," he said. "After a storm, when you hauled your bait, it looked like a ball of mud from the backwash that came off of the red clay bank."
Mr. Kern said that he has employed a civil engineer as well as an environmental consultant in developing the septic systems which will service the six lots on the island, in order to confirm that they will cause no harm to the environment.
Gerald Hanley, the contractor who will install the systems, said the soil on the island is class C-1, which is the best there is for such a project.
"[With] C-2 you've got to bring imported soil in, or sand," he said.
Mr. Kern said that because the systems will be installed in the centre of the island, it is not possible to "percolate into the ocean" as Mr. Tate had inferred.
He also said the only trees that have been removed from the island are spruce trees which have either blown down or were in danger of being uprooted.
One such tree, which housed an osprey nest, became a victim of the recent storm.
He has already installed a utility pole and platform in its place for the birds to rebuild on, and plans to place an additional two at other sites on the island.
Mr. Kern, who has been in the property development business for over 25 years, said he has never experienced problems with any of his previous projects.
"We care as much as anyone in this area for the development of Strum Island to be clean, nice, environmentally sensitive," he said. "There's nothing I'm ashamed of that's going on out here. In fact, I'm proud of it."
An American citizen, Mr. Kern is no stranger to Nova Scotia.
He has been visiting the South Shore since he was a child, and began developing his first properties in Queens County in 1995 .
He said that the development of Strum Island, which is the only island that the company owns in the bay, is worth about $400,000 to the local economy.
"I truly love this area," he said. "I'm the one that took the time and spent the money to stop the erosion."
Lighthouse Publishing October2,2002