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Beach access and vandalism hot topics in Pembroke

Seasonal residents fed up with damage, erect barrier to beach on their property

PEMBROKE, YARMOUTH COUNTY - Where there’s a will there’s a way. Well, not necessarily so in the case of beach access and the protection of a property on Cranberry Head Road.

A rock barrier established by owners preventing passage to a beach that residents have been accessing for decades was discussed recently at the Pembroke community hall.

The barrier also prevents passage for maintenance of a sluice used by kiacks. The fish passage connects the ocean to Island Pond. Some residents are blaming the barricade for flooding in the area.

Loren Cushing, Municipality of Yarmouth councillor for the district, says he scheduled the meeting after receiving many complaints about the issue.

Close to 20 residents attended the session, which ended with a creative solution. Coun. Cushing will be gathering information on required permits and funding sources to upgrade a neglected road (Israel Allen Road section two) that provides access to the other end of the beach. From where the road first meets the shoreline it’s about 870 metres to the sluice and beach.

Alex and Hal Woods from Rhode Island put the rock barrier in place this summer on land they’ve owned for two decades, after experiencing years of reckless vandalism to the 52-hectare property.

Their formerly pink house, the last one on the dead-end road, is popularly referred to as one of the prettiest in the region for its front veranda, cupula and scenic surroundings.

Its remote location, however, and a former caretaker that the couple refer to as “timid,” made it a prime target for trespassers and vandals.

Some people referred to the home as abandoned. Alex Woods says several issues, including deaths in the family, medical conditions, loss of air and ferry service, prevented them from visiting as often as they would have liked.

“It wasn’t easy for us to get there,” she said.

Each time the Woods returned to the Nova Scotia home they loved so much, there would be ugly surprises.

I’ve had people tell me that a bunch of kids got on the back of their truck, got up on the roof where we have a balcony in back of the house and partied,” said Alex.

The partiers had to go to the bathroom, she says, so they broke the windows upstairs to get in and use it. There are holes in the walls where vandals have thrown rocks through the windows, all the way across the living room. The owners say they have spent thousands of dollars replacing windows.

For years, they have returned to garbage everywhere: the front lawn strewn with Tim Hortons coffee cups, food wrappers, Christmas trees and garbage bags.

Video footage has shown people peering through first-floor windows. Other unwelcome visitors walked their dogs around the house, leaving poop behind.

Four-wheelers regularly drove up and down the hills behind the house, tearing up the lawn repeatedly. Repairing that was another huge expense.

The couple called RCMP so frequently they even extended an offer for one to live at the house rent-free.

During dinner one evening at a local restaurant, someone came up and told them they sat on their porch and had a picnic “out there”, with a bottle of wine.

“Half of Yarmouth was conceived on our front lawn. You would not believe the stuff we have found there,” said Alex. 

“I had one guy who pulled up with his boat, his shotguns and dog,” she said. She told him he couldn’t stay.

“He said, ‘Don’t tell me I can’t be here. Vernon Sweeney told me I could.’ Well, Vernon Sweeney sold the property about 25, 30 years ago and we bought it,” she said.

Hunters with shotguns have stood in front of her door and have left live ammunition laying about.

“It’s like, I can’t walk out of my house without an orange vest on? It’s just been a situation that went on and on. Finally we said, that’s it,” she said.

Every bit of the gingerbread was removed from the house so it didn’t look so “warm and inviting.” It was then painted gray to look more macho.

The Woods consulted with representatives from the departments of fisheries, highways and environment.

“We asked, ‘What do we do?’ This is what they suggested. And we weren’t happy about doing it,” she said.

When asked if she was concerned about the development of an alternate way to access the beach, she said she was.

 “I think it’s just another route for them (vandals) to get where they want to go. People are used to getting their own way and they don’t think we should be telling them what to do on our property,” she said.

Officials at the community meeting included Don Houston from Transport and Infrastructure Renewal and environment enforcement officer Lee Nauss, who said there was a lot of disrespect shown to the Woods.

“I’m not sticking up for either side but what I will say is what went on there shouldn’t have happened anywhere,” said Nauss.

Although there was no representative from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at the meeting, Coun. Cushing has been contacted since and was told that DFO supports efforts for an alternative route to the sluice and are willing to work with the community.

Cushing says he believes community members accessing the alternate route could act as watchdogs.

“I know some people saw activity going on over there and they called the RCMP,” he said.

“A good community watch would help out a lot,” he added.

Alex Woods says she and her husband love Nova Scotia and have Canadian ancestors.

“We’re looking forward to spending a lot of time there someday. We’d like to build on and retire there some day.”



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