The case for a war memorial park in Sydney Mines
'It fills the vital commemoration need in Canada,' says project's planning director
A recently released drone video supporting a proposal to build a national memorial to veterans captures a majestic coastline along a rugged point of land jutting into the Atlantic Ocean.
Located in Sydney Mines, N.S., the publicly owned land, already cleared and dotted with a few battered fortifications, was important during wartime, says Brian Ferguson, planning director of Sydney Mines Tourism Development Society.
Its history makes the site an ideal location for the proposed Atlantic Memorial Park, he said.
"The Sydney Harbour area has been a major military site which is little known by Canadians. The role of Sydney Harbour over the war years has been quite significant."
Chapel Point Battery, located on the site, was built in 1939 for the purpose of protecting Sydney Harbour during the Second World War, Ferguson said
"The Chapel Point Battery was one of seven that defended the harbour from U-boat attacks," Ferguson said.
Neglected for decades, the walls of the cement buildings are covered in graffiti.
Not a new idea
Prior to Sydney Mines amalgamating with what would become the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, the former town was taking steps to restore Chapel Point Battery.
Clarence Prince, former mayor of Sydney Mines and current regional councillor for the area, said a study was commissioned by the town in 1991. But by the time it was commissioned and the town was ready to proceed, amalgamation took place, ending the project.
"Projects such as this went on the back burner and after that, we had successive changes in federal and provincial governments and it seemed like — I wouldn't say the interest was lost, but it certainly waned," said Prince.
Prince supports the project and says it could be a great way to attract more tourists to the area.
"Sydney Mines needs business and they need visitors there and hopefully, something like this will go and there will be an incentive for people to go and set up shop in Sydney Mines, to try to bring it back to its former glory," he said.
Clarence Dawe, an executive member of the Royal Canadian Legion Breton Branch 8, said local legions have been responding positively to the proposal for Atlantic Memorial Park.
"The observation tower at Chapel Point, it's part of our history. The harbour itself was pretty significant in the Second World War where the convoys used to gather up there before they went overseas," said Dawe.
"The ships that were mustered in the harbour were all laden with munitions, they wouldn't allow them in Halifax Harbour because of what happened during the First World War, that explosion ... so they were sent to Sydney."
'Vital commemoration need'
People have long been drawn to the location, Ferguson said. "They like to go there and look at the ocean."
He said if the proposed park be approved, the first phase will be restoration of the existing property, an estimated cost of about $2 million.
The park would fill a "vital commemoration need in Canada," said Ferguson.
He said the plan for the park also includes developing Lochman's Beach as a family park.
'The perfect location'
The park will also have nods to the coal and steel production in Sydney Mines and contributions from Membertou First Nation.
Cindy LeBlanc of Dartmouth visited the Chapel Point Battery for the first time in April when her paranormal group investigated the spirit side of the historic site. They got positive vibes, she said.
Originally from nearby Dominion, LeBlanc was enthusiastic about restoring Chapel Point Battery.
"I think it would be a beautiful spot for a park," she said. "I think it's the perfect location, it still has a nice solid structure and there's some great history there."