CHAMCOOK (GNB) – A return to the elegance of the past and the addition of modern amenities are part of a new vision to develop Ministers Island into a world-class tourist destination.

“Realizing the full potential of Ministers Island as a sustainable cultural, heritage and ecotourism destination will create jobs and grow the economy,” said Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister John Ames. “Creating an integrated world-class Fundy Coast experience will provide an advantage for New Brunswick in the globally competitive travel marketplace, and Ministers Island is an important part of that. The excitement that this project will bring will forge even further tourism notoriety to the renaissance we are currently witnessing throughout the Fundy Coast. Ministers Island will be the next catalyst in exposing our nation's premier seaside resort town, Saint Andrews.”

Ministers Island is operated by an organization known as the Van Horne Estate on Ministers Island Inc. The roughly 200-hectare island is historically significant as an important summer camp for indigenous people and, much later, as the summer home of the builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Sir William Van Horne. It is designated as a Provincial Heritage Place, has two National Historic Site designations and is considered a Heritage Park.

“Ministers Island is a national treasure that our government is proud to support,” said New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig. “Built heritage tells a story about our past, and how we manage it tells a story about our future. Having a clear vision for the future of the island will make it a world-class tourist attraction that will create jobs and small business opportunities and grow our economy through exports. The restoration project, maintenance and operations on the island will also be a local economic driver.”

Ludwig attended for federal Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, who is also the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

For the past year, the organization, with support from the provincial and federal governments, has been developing a three-phase business development plan. It proposes restoring elements of the Edwardian era, as well as adding modern carriage house chalets to allow for overnight stays and the hosting of special events such as weddings and meetings. Further plans include the creation of beach access, docking facilities and walking and cycling trails.

“The Ministers Island business plan marks the realization of many years of effort on the part of the past and the present boards of the Van Horne Estate on Ministers Island, our local community, and the provincial and federal governments,” said the organization’s board chair Brian Usher. “Our challenge has been to recognize and build on the many layers of history and culture on the island: the original Passamaquoddy inhabitants, the early settlers, the Loyalists, and finally, the life and times of Sir William Van Horne, a key figure in cementing Confederation through his completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. We believe that our business plan balances a respect for the environment and all those that have gone before, with a wide range of revenue-generating, themed-product innovations that will support increased tourism and long-term financial sustainability.”

Potential economic benefits of the development include new jobs in the areas of design, planning, construction, operational management, administrative support, guiding and interpretation, food and beverage service, retail, housekeeping, maintenance, security, woodlot management, sales and marketing. Once completed, the Ministers Island development is expected to employ 40 to 50 people and generate about $1.3 million in payroll.

Major renovations were made to the Van Horne barn to preserve and restore the silos, repair flooring and replace windows in the historic structure. The provincial government invested $250,000 in that project while the federal government contributed $239,309 through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program as well as $100,000 from Parks Canada.

The organization also received $40,000 under ACOA’s Business Development Program to develop a comprehensive business plan that identified a long-term tourism development strategy for the island.

Additionally, the federal and provincial governments are supporting the hiring of people to oversee the business plan’s implementation. The provincial government is investing $125,000 and the federal government is contributing $145,000.

The tourism industry employs more than 42,000 people in New Brunswick and contributes more than $520 million annually to the provincial GDP. For every public dollar invested in promoting New Brunswick as a tourism destination, there is an estimated return of $3.19 to the province. The budget for the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture increased by 17.6 per cent this year. In addition, a capital investment of $75 million will be made over the next three years for upgrades to assets of cultural and historic significance.