Association finds ways to keep rural community vibrant

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Dave Wilson and Tracy Wilmot look over Spotlight on the East River, a

monthly newsletter put out by the East River Valley Community Development

Association. (Rosalie MacEachern photo)

Fears that rural Nova Scotia is dying refuse to take root in Marshdale.

The chair and vice-chair of the East River Valley Community Development Association are neighbours, living across the Marshdale Road from each other.

“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I’ve lived all over but I always had a tie to the area,” said Wilson.

He inherited a couple of woodlots in the area and when he retired in 2005 he and his wife settled on a property that keeps him busy.

Vice-chair Tracy Wilmot was born in the East River Valley but moved to Lismore when she was four years old. When she came back to Pictou County in 2002, after many years of living in Quebec, she wanted a rural property.

“We found a place in the country that suited us and we’re very happy here,” she said.

Both point to new neighbours as evidence of a vibrant community but they recognize the challenges in rural areas.

“When I was growing up the family car sat for days, maybe a week sometimes, but today many families have more than one car and they go to town for so many of their needs,” said Wilson.

He added there was a time when people came together to develop ball fields for children and adults to play on.

“Today we have fewer children and they don’t seem to spend much time outside anyway.”  

But both Wilson and Wilmot like the idea of being involved in a local organization that looks for ways to improve the quality of life and that is how they got involved with the formation of the development association in 2006.

“We were getting some historical kiosks installed in the valley and some group had to be responsible for them so that’s really how we began. Once we had an association we started looking at our possibilities,” said Wilson.

The association has grown by trial and error, Wilmot added.

“We want to help people and businesses prosper locally and we’ve tried quite a variety of projects over the years to see what works,” said Wilmot.

An attempt to have a regular farmer’s market is one project that did not work out.

“But now we have a young couple who are trying a shared agricultural operation and that’s really promising,” said Wilmot.

Sometimes the association organizes its own events, such as a hearing information session, while other times it teams up with an existing event such as providing a fundraising meal in conjunction with the annual Hopewell Ceilidh.

A regular monthly newsletter, Spotlight on the East River, goes out to homes throughout the valley, which takes in communities from Plymouth to Sunny Brae, as well as those from Riverton to Lorne.

“The newsletter gives us a sense of community and keeps people informed about events going on in the different communities. It is a relatively small number of people who attend our meetings but the newsletter goes out to everyone,” said Wilmot.

A grant from Pictou County municipal council covers the cost of the newsletter and pays for a co-coordinator who helps with events and maintains contact with volunteers.

“Our co-coordinator is Donna Kennedy and we’re lucky to have someone with so much energy. Just knowing we have someone to help motivate us,” said Wilmot.

An easily accessible community garden with raised beds has been created on the former Eureka school property but finding a water source is proving to be a challenge.

“We know there is a well on the property but nobody seems to know where to find it. We’ve done enough digging to find mud so we’re convinced it can be found,” said Wilson.

A winter sleigh ride was rained out but the third annual snowshoe afternoon went ahead with equipment borrowed from North Nova Education Centre and was followed by a supper.

“We had a nice group, including some kids on snowshoes for the first time, making their way through the trails in my woodlot,” said Wilson.

Wilmot was introduced to fiddleheads when she lived in Quebec and was happy to discover they grow locally.

“I’m giving a workshop called Fiddlehead Frolic. It is everything you need to know about getting out and looking for fiddleheads. We’ve already got some people who pick them and they are fantastic with your salmon,” she said

People are already issuing challenges for the popular washer toss tournament scheduled for September but it is not all fun and games for the association.

“Arlene MacGregor is organizing a brainstorming session in response to the Ivany Report on Nova Scotia’s economy so we’re trying to do our part,” said Wilson.


- Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer who seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love the most. If you have someone you think should she should profile in an upcoming article, she can be reached at


Organizations: East River Valley Community Development Association, Eureka school, North Nova Education Centre Ivany Report on Nova Scotia

Geographic location: Marshdale Road, East River Valley, Pictou County Quebec Nova Scotia Lismore Plymouth Sunny Brae Stellarton

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