Oak Island Tourism Society weighs in on new treasure hunters
Lunenburg Progress Enterprise – May 2, 2006
The Oak Island Tourism Society is ready for the treasure hunting and possible tourism activity, such as last year’s exploratory days, on the famed Mahone Bay island.
WESTERN SHORE — The Oak Island Tourism Society (OITS) may have wanted the province to buy the island, but they’re now getting used to plan B.
Last week, long-time treasure hunter Dan Blankenship confirmed he had secured new partners for Oak Island Tours Inc., the company he shared with David Tobias. The dissolving company was liquidating its 78 per cent of the island and Mr. Blankenship either had to find new partners or the island would have been sold on the open market.
A group of oil and gas moguls from Michigan are the new partners, and once the treasure trove licence is transferred from Mr. Tobias, the hunt is set to begin. This announcement came just days after Chester-St. Margarets MLA and Minister of Tourism Judy Streatch confirmed that the province was looking into buying Oak Island.
OITS spokesman Danny Hennigar says now that the news of new partners has sunk in, he’s ready for the next saga in this 211-year-old mystery. “Originally, I was a little disappointed that the province didn’t work a little faster, a little more diligently on securing the island for the public, but upon reflection I feel this is actually quite a good set-up,” he says. “Actually when you boil it all away I think this is a very positive thing. It could end up costing the province a heck of a lot less money, but it truly does depend on what type of deal Mr. Blankenship brings to the table before the province.”
Last week Mr. Blankenship said he will be requesting a meeting with Ms Streatch to see how the province may help the OITS realize its goal and reopen the island to tours. It appears that for now Mr. Blankenship and Ms Streatch may be on the same page in terms of public access to the island. Mr. Blankenship says he hopes he and the province can “find some good common ground” so the OITS can “pursue what they want to pursue.”
Ms Streatch says, “I hope that the Michigan group and Mr. Blankenship continue to have a co-operative partnership and a co-operative relationship with the Oak Island Tourism Society because they truly have the best interest of the island at heart.” Ultimately, Mr. Hennigar and the OITS would like to see the province “accept the challenge from Mr. Blankenship to enter into an agreement to set up tours on Oak Island. “We would like to see them build an interpretive centre and conduct tours,” he adds.
Although still early in the game, Mr. Hennigar says a feasibility study commissioned by the OITS found that such an interpretive centre would be best on the island, but Mr. Hennigar says other nearby locations could be considered. There is no guarantee that such a project is in the works. Both Mr. Blankenship and Ms Streatch are waiting for their meeting to comment further. “Our mandate is to see the island opened up to the public and an interpretive centre, and however that happens, it really doesn’t matter to the society, as long as it happens,” says Mr. Hennigar. The OITS has no official stance on the island, nor the activity on the land, but they have been kept in the loop by the stakeholders and Mr. Hennigar thinks he knows why.
“For the past five years we have reinvigorated the interest in Oak Island and through various events, especially Explore Oak Island Day, we’ve brought people from around the world to Western Shore,” he says. “I think we’ve made a big impact in reinvigorating the interest in Oak Island. I would like to think that it’s because of persistent efforts that the tourism project is still on the minds of the politicians,” adds Mr. Hennigar. A date for the meeting has yet to be set.