DNR open house opens eyes to facility
SHUBENACADIE - A hovering helicopter, children squealing at the sight of insects and sightings of Smokey the Bear were obvious signs that something unique was happening at the Department of Natural Resources on the weekend.
The Shubenacadie-based department held its first official open house Saturday and estimated crowds reached about 1,000.
Overheard consistently throughout the day was how surprised people were at how much the facility offers.
"The helicopter is here all the time and I didn't realize what it was for, I thought maybe for training," said Shubenacadie's Lorraine Martin.
She discovered five helicopters are stationed at the site and are used for fire calls throughout the province as well as search and rescue and forestry calls.
"They go all over the province ... that blew my mind. There's more gear here than I thought."
Daniel MacLeod, co-pilot of the Bell 212 helicopter on site, allowed people inside the chopper, although no one outside of DNR staff could lift off.
MacLeod said the helicopters were vital in firefighting province-wide.
"This can deliver about 3,000 pounds of water at a time and is worth $3 million," said MacLeod as people gathered around to take a peek.
Twelve-year-old Brad Decker from Bible Hill was astonished at how complicated the helicopter was.
"I've never been inside one before today ... I didn't know it had that many buttons. If I tried to fly it I'd probably crash it," he giggled.
Shelley Meagher, of Fort Ellis, was impressed with the open house. The value of getting hands-on understanding of what happens at the local department is important, she said.
"It's something we don't get to see every day and we should be aware of what's around us," Meagher said as she looked over a variety of species of insects on display.
"It's definitely an eye-opener to be on scene."
The DNR's Don Cameron, a registered forester, said the event was organized because the public had indicated its interest in learning more about the facility and resource management.
"People don't have a full appreciation of all we do," he said of the Shubenacadie headquarter that has been in existence since 1948.
"We are approaching seven billion people on this planet, all demanding of our Earth. We need to practice sustainable forest management and making people aware of that helps," said Cameron.
The facility also deals with wildlife, forest protection, wildfires, pest and disease control, Crown and private land issues, conservation enforcement, mines and minerals and acts as a training centre.