Nova Scotia

'Opening up' Georges Island: New wharf, better facilities coming for 2020

Georges Island is getting a new wharf and better facilities thanks to a combined $3.6-million investment by the provincial and federal governments.

Work is expected to be completed prior to next July

A view of Georges Island from Halifax harbour. (Mélanie Léger/Radio-Canada)

A seldom-visited island in Halifax harbour may finally be open to the public starting next summer.

The federal and provincial governments are teaming up to build a new $2-million wharf on Georges Island.

Ottawa plans to spend an additional $1.6-million on upgrades that will make those visits more enjoyable and comfortable.

"At long last we are opening up Georges Island," Halifax MP Andy Fillmore said triumphantly at the official announcement on Friday, the island visible over his shoulder through a thin mist.

Eric Nielsen, a Parks Canada superintendent, said the hope is to have the new wharf and other upgrades completed in time for the summer of 2020.

The island is currently off-limits to visitors without permission from Parks Canada. (Mélanie Léger/Radio-Canada)

"At some point between the first of June and the first of July," he said to reporters. The target date is June 15.

The construction of the new wharf will be the responsibility of Develop Nova Scotia, the provincial agency that is responsible for waterfront projects in Halifax.

Jennifer Angel, Develop Nova Scotia's president and CEO, said a tender for the work should be issued this fall.

One of the historic military buildings on Georges Island. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Once it's built, Develop Nova Scotia will manage the wharf and the associated docking facilities. 

"Our intention is it will provide for free daily berthing and public access to the marina infrastructure and also a platform for business to bring transportation solutions to the island," said Angel.

"We'll go to market and invite tour operators of different shapes and sizes, different types of boats to tell us how they can bring people to the island."

Georges Island will be getting a new wharf in time for tourist season next summer. (Develop Nova Scotia)

Visitors currently must ask Parks Canada for permission to visit the island. There are no-trespassing signs posted.

Nielsen says that will change once the new wharf is installed.

Although the plan calls for new interpretation panels and better trails, both Ottawa and the province are looking for the site to retain its "authentic" look.

Parks Canada usually charges a fee to visit its sites and that is likely to be the case for Georges Island. An amount has not been determined.

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