Dozens of people packed the community centre where chairs and tables were set out and side tables were heavy with trays heaped with cookies, squares, sandwiches, loaves, fruit and vegetable plates, steaming crock pots, drinks -- and a birthday cake.
The celebration marked the 20th anniversary of the formation of the local community association that in effect was the birth of a small village of civilians where there were once military personnel.
It used to be CFB Cornwallis. Today it calls itself the Village of Cornwallis. The first residents there in the mid-1990s were pioneers of a sort after the federal government shut down the navy base.
Some of those original settlers, like Alex Morrison, were there at the birthday party on the weekend and remembered how it all started back in February 1994 when Ottawa announced that the base would be closed.
“At that time I was executive director of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies in Toronto,” he said. “Various Canadian military officers and federal civilian officials were aware of my urgings that Canada establish a peacekeeping education and training centre to spread the expertise in peacekeeping that our country had acquired over many decades. So, the CISS was asked to set up such a centre and I was chosen to be the first president of the new organization called the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre to be situated in Cornwallis Park (as the base was renamed in the autumn of 1994).”
The peacekeeping centre opened in 1995, but from late in 1994 until 1997, the residential side of Cornwallis Park was vacant.
“I remember walking around and wondering what would happen to all those homes,” Morrison said. “In that period, other businesses were established and prospered. In 1997, the residences were offered for sale and soon all had been purchased by folks who had lived here during military times or just wanted to live in this very attractive part of Nova Scotia.”
The homes – the old private married quarters – started at just under $30,000.
In late summer of 1997, the Cornwallis Park Homeowners Association was formed, later to become Cornwallis Park Community Association.
“The building now occupied by the community centre was renovated and has served as the hub of community activities since that time,” said Morrison. “From 1997 until the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre was moved from Cornwallis Park, there was a very close and productive relationship between residents of Cornwallis Park and all who taught and attended courses on various aspects of peacekeeping.”
Current association chair Karen Smith presided over the Sept. 30 celebration and spoke of what makes community and invited residents to share their memories of those years.
Carol Mason stood up and said there were three original buyers on May of 1997. She was one of them and was the first to move in. The only other people in Cornwallis Park were the people working there.
“It was really lonely,” she said of those first days, but things got busy and she started a property management company. “I had at one time 32 houses that I was responsible for that had to be checked out every 24 hours. Oh my goodness that first year was so much fun.”
Morrison said that over the years, CPCA activities have included bridge, darts, bowling, cribbage, exercise classes, bingo, community breakfasts, museum breakfasts, TOPS classes, jam sessions, Christmas parties, a dance group, fundraisers of all types, and Canada Day celebrations.
The community now boasts a YMCA, a large community garden, a library, and a community newsletter delivered to every door.
“In addition, citizen-awareness meetings were convened by the RCMP, seniors' advisors, medical authorities, and other public-spirited groups and individuals,” he said. “The CPCA has contributed greatly to the well-being of the wider community and its members are to be thanked for their community leadership and involvement.”