Nova Scotia

North Preston, East Preston residents look to past, aim for brighter future

People in North Preston and East Preston are trying to change the reputation of their area by looking to their rich histories.

East Preston resident Wanda Thomas Bernard moved back to the community to resettle family land

Andrew Howe stand on Colley Hill in East Preston, land that has been in his family for generations. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

People in North Preston and East Preston are trying to change the reputation of their area by looking to their rich histories. The communities often make the headlines for crime, but some locals say there's much more to the rural neighbourhoods. 
 
Wanda Thomas Bernard moved back to her original home of East Preston 10 years ago after experiencing racism in another community in Halifax. 

"We had a rather unfortunate experience," said Bernard. "An experience of racism that I will never forget. It was an experience that made me realize that I did not want to spend my last days in the neighbourhood that I had called home for about 30 years."

'Reinvesting in hope'

Bernard and her husband built their home on land passed down from her mother's family, the Slawters. The house overlooks the Partridge River, a place that hold special significance for Bernard. 

"I could feel the spirits of the ancestors," said Bernard, remembering the first time she walked down to the water after moving home.

"It felt as if they were saying, 'Thank you, thank you for moving back here, thank you for investing, for reinvesting, in East Preston, for reinvesting in this land and for reinvesting in hope.'"

Neighbourhood revitalization

Wanda Thomas Bernard is a professor of social work at Dalhousie University. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Bernard said she hopes to be part of a change to revitalize the community.

Her neighbour, Andrew Howe, is of the same mind. Howe commutes to classes at Dalhousie University, where he is studying biology. He said often people associate the Prestons with crime but, he said, there is much more to the community. 

"We have a plethora of history, knowledge, you name it," said Howe. "It often gets foreshadowed by the not so nice parts of the community."

Beauty in the land

Tony Kolaiacovo, a consultant for the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute, has a keen interest in the history of the Prestons. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Tony Kolaiacovo, a Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute consultant, agrees with Howe. 

"The beauty of the land itself is sometimes overlooked in talking about Preston, itself," said Kolaiacovo. 

Howe is a descendant of the Colley family, whose roots in East Preston go back to 1804. Howe said he hopes more young people will stay in the community, and change perceptions about it. 

Deep roots

"I'm looking to see the public image of the community to be vastly different than what it is now because, we who live here, we have our own idea of the community," said Howe.

"I have my own idea of the community, personally, and then there's the idea that the media has, the idea that people in Dartmouth, Halifax might have."

Bernard also envisions a brighter future for the community that includes better infrastructure and a new church. 

"I imagine, 20 years from now, that this community will be so vibrant, there will be many more businesses. We won't have to go outside of the community for basic things like gasoline, groceries — things that many communities take for granted, we don't have access to. And I believe we'll have a bus service, that's a real service," she said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie vanKampen

Videojournalist

Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen @cbc.ca

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