Company with McCain family connections buying up coastal properties near St. Martins

The land purchases by the Applecross Group include a long stretch of coastline that runs 1,500 metres from just past the Quaco Head Lighthouse up to and including Browns Beach. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)
The land purchases by the Applecross Group include a long stretch of coastline that runs 1,500 metres from just past the Quaco Head Lighthouse up to and including Browns Beach. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)

A Toronto company with McCain family connections has been buying up properties around the Quaco Head Lighthouse near St. Martins, but plans for the land are a mystery to local people.

"If anyone should know anything it's the mayor, and I don't," said Jim Bedford, the mayor of the new Fundy-St. Martins municipality.

"There's all kinds of rumours but that's all they are. You know more than I do."

Since September 2020, a Toronto-based company called the Applecross Group Ltd. has been assembling parcels of land in the Quaco area outside St. Martins.

Pathways to Education
Pathways to Education

According to corporate records, Applecross has two listed directors, Kathryn Ann McCain and her husband, Jamie Pyper. The company's address is listed as the couple's home in midtown Toronto.

Originally from Florenceville, Kathryn McCain is the daughter of the late Andrew McCain, one of the four founding brothers of the McCain Foods empire.

In nine separate purchases over three years, Applecross has spent $3.3 million to gradually acquire nearly 300 hectares.

The centrepiece is a 69-hectare block of rugged coastline adjacent to the Quaco Head Lighthouse. It was purchased in 2020 for $1.9 million and includes more than a kilometre of uninterrupted ocean frontage.

Views are panoramic all along the property, which has more than a passing resemblance to a stretch of coastline used to build the world famous Cabot Cliffs course in Inverness, N.S.

The main Quaco property includes dramatic 20-metre rock cliffs that rise from the Bay of Fundy at one end and a long stretch of the expansive Browns Beach at the other. 

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

Not just picturesque, the area is also at centre of one of the most ecologically and geologically significant locations in Canada, according to Jennifer Dingman.

"It's the only place in North America with two UNESCO designations," said Dingman, of the Quaco Head and St Martins region.

Dingman, who has a PhD in biology from the University of New Brunswick is executive director of two sites that are recognized as significant by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO.

The Fundy Biosphere covers a major portion of southeastern New Brunswick and the upper Bay of Fundy and the Stonehammer GeoPark, with rock formations up to 1 billion years old sits farther to the west.

The two overlap each other exactly at Quaco Head.

Dingman said those unique designations do not disqualify commercial developments such as a golf course, but any project would be under scrutiny to adhere to high standards.

WATCH | Coastal land around St. Martins the centre of a mystery:

Her organization doesn't have jurisdiction over the landscape, but if the Quaco land were to be used for a golf course, "hopefully it would be done in a sustainable way," said Dingman.

Both McCain and Pyper declined an invitation to speak about what their plans are for the St. Martins properties and locals either won't say or don't know what those plans might be.

Last week, several residents, including one who spoke of a lengthy meeting with Pyper, told CBC News they were aware of talk in the community of a potential golf course but all declined to confirm it or be interviewed about what they know.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press
Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

McCain and Pyper are golfers themselves and a decade ago they and Applecross briefly emerged as potential buyers of the provincially owned Crowbush golf resort in Prince Edward Island.

In 2013 Applecross was granted cabinet approval in P.E.I. to buy 26 hectares from the province that was connected to the Crowbush development. Separately,  McCain and Pyper bought an additional 26 hectares, according to news reports at the time.

Attempts by P.E.I. to sell Crowbush to any party eventually collapsed in 2014, and it remains the property of the province.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

McCain and Pyper retain strong connections to New Brunswick.

McCain is a former chair of the board of governors of the University of New Brunswick.

The couple have a summer home at Katy's Cove in Saint Andrews and, according to player records kept by Golf Canada, they have been long-standing members of the Algonquin golf club.

But beyond those modest clues there is no direct information about what they are planning in the St. Martins area or  when they might make their plans public.

In the meantime, land acquisitions are continuing.

The latest purchase, a 4,100-square-metre lot near the lighthouse, was bought by Applecross for $156,000 in a transaction that closed just last week.