The Sustainable Northern Coastal Communities Regional Engagement session taking place in St. Anthony is bringing together representatives from municipal, provincial and federal governments, educational institutions, community groups and tourism operators all with the goal of reenergizing life in the tip of the Northern Peninsula.
The sessions are a continuation of Our Way Forward held in November 2016 which created a platform for discussion and to create a space for the growth and development of the Great Northern Peninusla. The sessions were a project of Grenfell's Office of Engagement and the Harris Centre in St. John's campus.
The sessions were broadcasted online to encourage sharing of knowledge between like-minded organizations and initiatives in the province.
"There is a vast array of assets on the Northern Peninsula, and past research has highlighted the inventory of what we have here," said Ken Carter, director of Grenfell's Office of Engagement. "That sense of place, low cost of living, regional pride - we are coming together to build on those strengths."
Sheila Fitzgerald, mayor of Roddickton-Byde Arm and vice-president, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, echoed that sentiment.
"Being a mom of two teenage boys is what motivates me. My kids think this place is paradise. I want this is to be my children's children's home. We look at predicted population decline and it's scary. We have control of today and it is our responsibility to take initiative.
"This place is different than anywhere else. And if there's one place in this province that could make it work, it's this place."
Identifying our assets
Ph.D. student Brennan Lowery worked with the group to help identify the strengths of the region.
"We need to start with what's strong, not what's wrong," he said. "Communities that get labelled as 'in need' can be debilitated by labelling but when communities find a way to use their strengths, assets and abilities that focus can change the conversation and make the conversation more empowering."
- Socio-cultural assets that include diversity, social networks, relationships and identity: Close social network, relationships with law enforcement, and sense of community
- Natural assets that include natural resources, ecosystems, water, social and climate: fishery, forestry, mineral exploration, protected wildlife reserves and potential for sustainable energy
- Economic and human assets: skilled workers, diverse skills, increased employment in health care, increased tourism and potential in the oil and gas sector
- Institutional assets that include public facilities, infrastructure, government offices and non-profit organizations: recreation facilities, health care and care for seniors, and services.
Honouring Dr. Grenfell's gardens
Researcher Dr. Greg Wood introduced the idea of rebuilding the historic gardens and greenhouses that Dr. Wilfred Grenfell built in the 20th century. The property consisted of tree greenhouses that were used to start plants that were transferred into residents' vegetable gardens.
Dr. Wood also told of Dr. Grenfell's attempts to bring livestock to the region. His intention was always about food security for the people of the Northern Peninsula, said Dr. Wood. The resourcefulness of Dr. Grenfell is well-documented in the region; this could serve as an opportunity for the region to create a resource to encourage community-based agriculture, said Dr. Wood.
"I think it's a really great idea," said Mayor Fitzgerald. "I think the people here have learnt to be self-sustaining; we're hunters and gatherers by training. The people who have stayed here have embraced it."
"One of the messages of Dr. Grenfell was not just to give things to people," said Dr. Wood, "but also to teach people to do things themselves, to sustain this themselves, not just do it and leave."
A proposed time line for such a garden would be spring 2019, pending approval of financial and human resources.
Caption: Reps from Grenfell's Office of Engagement and graduate studies visited St. Anthony.