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Clear-cuts, gold mining create concern for Wentworth residents

Mike Eddy, general manager of the Snowmobilers Association of Nova Scotia (SANS), represented many at the meeting who believed their concerns about the positive impact of snowmobilers and ATV'ers needed to be heard.
Mike Eddy, general manager of the Snowmobilers Association of Nova Scotia (SANS), represented many at the meeting who believed their concerns about the positive impact of snowmobilers and ATV'ers needed to be heard. - Dave Mathieson

WENTWORTH, N.S. – A favourite summer getaway in the Wentworth Valley has been tarnished by clear-cutting, says a local resident.

Gregor Wilson says the Northern Pulp clear-cut on the side of Higgins Mountain last summer has had a negative effect on Wentworth Falls. 

“After the rain we had the other day I was up and walked into those falls, and for the first time in my life they were as brown as brown can be. You couldn’t see a single rock, you couldn’t see one millimetre into the water. The level of siltation was profound; I couldn’t believe it,” said Wilson. “If you’re standing in it in the summertime up to your thighs you can see your feet, and now you can’t see your feet. The only thing upstream is Northern Pulp.”

Wilson purchased the Wentworth Falls, along with 220 surrounding acres, with the intent of protecting the area and developing it for tourism. He said there was a plan to subdivide the property into plots but he bought the property to keep it whole and turn it into a park-like area for free public use.

Siltation at the falls was one of several concerns Wilson expressed at a public meeting Saturday at the Wentworth Recreation Centre.

“I love the area and it’s where my heart and passions lie,” Wilson, who has lived in Wentworth off and on for 30 years and has been a fulltime resident for the past five years, told a crowd of almost 200 at the recreation centre.

Wilson, the director of Ski Wentworth, believes forestry and tourism can co-exist, but he feels betrayed by the clear-cut on the side of Higgins Mountain, which is visible from Highway 4, the main road passing through the Wentworth Valley.

“The clear cut in the Valley upset me. We worked with Scott Paper back in the day, and I personally worked with Kimberly Clark many years ago to map the youth hostel trails,” said Wilson. “Northern pulp, I know staff there and I know some of the GPS planners doing some of the work, and nobody reached out and said, ‘hey, what do you think of this (clear-cut).’”

Wilson would like to develop the area into a four-season tourism destination but many hurdles stand in his way. Besides the possibility of more clearcutting he is also concerned about a proposed gold mine.

“People don’t understand about the gold mine yet because DNR (the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources) has not been very forthcoming with information,” said Wilson.

Gold mining maps are being provided to prospectors but not to people living in the area. Wilson says DNR has the right to build a mine in the middle of Ski Wentworth.

“They would have to get it approved, but they can come in and start staking our property, the youth hostel property and the trails up there. They can do that right now and we can’t stop them,” said Wilson.

Clear cuts and gold mines aren’t the only obstacles in the way of building a four-season destination. There is also a proposed 4,000-acre Wentworth Wilderness Area next to Ski Wentworth awaiting approval.

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