Province says it simply hasn’t
been asked for an interpretive centre
WESTERN SHORE — In light of the success of
Explore Oak Island Days, many are asking why the
province isn’t jumping on the opportunity to build an
interpretive centre. MLA Judy Streatch says they simply
haven’t been asked.
“I’ve not had contact or requests from anyone as of
late to discuss this,” says Ms Streatch.
“If someone were to contact me I would be more
than happy to act in support or to act in consultation
or to attempt to be the facilitator or set up a meeting,”
she adds. “I’m always more than pleased than to fulfill
that role as MLA.”
Danny Hennigar, an executive member of the Oak
Island Tourism Society, says the group met with Ms
Streatch earlier this year to discuss the province purchasing
the island. In April of 2006, 78
per cent of the famous island was up for
sale when the long-time treasure-hunting
company owned by David Tobias
and Dan Blankenship was up for liquidation
At that time, Ms Streatch did take the
matter to the Department of Natural
Resources and the provincial land-acquisition
officers. Ultimately, Mr. Blankenship
secured new treasure-hunting
partners and Mr. Tobias’ shares were
sold to them instead of the province.
The treasure hunt is set to resume as soon as all
legalities and permits are processed, but Mr. Blankenship
went on record at the time of the sale saying he
would welcome the opportunity to sit down with the
province and the society to discuss public tours.
Mr. Hennigar says the society did apply for a grant
from the Department of Tourism to aid in Explore Oak
Island Days. They were not granted any funds.
Admittedly, he says, they have not sat down with the
province since the sale of the island to talk about a possible
next step. Mr. Hennigar says they will be requesting
a meeting to begin discussions surrounding an
interpretive centre and opening the island for tours.
Although the island would still be privately owned,
he is hoping a partnership between the landowners
and government could be met. He believes it would be
good for the tourism industry and the province. “Who
benefits more from a tourism project than the province
of Nova Scotia?” he says.
Ms Streatch says she welcomes a meeting with the
society and the landowners. “I’ve not been contacted so
therefore I have nothing to move on,” she says.
Although the Oak Island Tourism Society has no
official claims on the island, both the province and Mr.
Blankenship have kept them in the loop.
“Certainly, I know the society has worked diligently
over the years to ensure the true flavour of the island
has not been lost,” says Ms Streatch. “Even though
it’s been privately owned and it certainly hasn’t been
without controversy, I know the society has worked
diligently and extremely hard to make sure that the
island stays in people’s minds.”
Ultimately, the society would like to see the island
opened up to the public. Ms Streatch didn’t specifically
say what she saw for the island’s future.
“Certainly, Oak Island is a unique treasure. It is
something that has intrigued people for hundreds of
years and if there was an opportunity for the province
to play a role in that promotion or if there’s an opportunity
at some point for a development or for acquisition,
then certainly I would hope that the province would in
good faith enter into those types of talks and discussions,”
Ms Streatch also says there are a lot of issues and
legalities to work out if the province were to enter a
partnership to offer island tours or
build an interpretive centre.
“If indeed there is a general consensus,
if indeed there is a will, if indeed
there is an ability, then that’s something
that all of the different parties
have to come to the table and discuss
and find ways to make sure that all the
needs are met, and that things are done
in a manner that respects jurisdiction,
and respects private landownership
and respects fiscal restraints and that
sort of thing,” she says.
“I know if we lived in a perfect world with no jurisdiction
and no economic restraints, certainly we’d all
love to be able to maximize what’s in front of us, but
again we have to respect jurisdiction, we have to respect
private landowners and we can’t very well barge
in,” she adds.
“Everything in due course,” she says.
Should the island and an interpretive centre be
opened to the public, Mr. Hennigar says the society
is ready to play whatever role they need to serve. If
they are able to be involved, they would be. If there is
no room for them, then Mr. Hennigar says they would
walk away, pleased that the project is under way.
“We could either stay or back away,” he says. “The
key is to get the island opened up for tours and open an
At this point, Mr. Hennigar says their role is to bring
the province and the landowners together.
“We see our role as quarterbacking this thing,” he
The society is planning a meeting with its directors
and hopes to speak to Ms Streatch formally in the
near future. Explore Oak Island Days 2006 offered island
tours to more than 300 people from as far away as Great