The town of Florenceville-Bristol, with the support of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, will enhance its tourist, recreation and historic assets along the St. John River.
The town and ACOA announced on Tuesday, Sept 20, the approval of $30,000 in federal funding through ACOA's tourism relief funds towards a $60,000 project delivering improvements at Riverside Park, Shogomoc Railway and the surrounding area. The town will cover the balance of project costs.
Mayor Karl Curtis welcomed the ACOA support noting the importance of ensuring high-quality offerings for a range of products, services and experiences which will attract residents and visitors.
"Riverside Park and Shogomoc Railway sites are premier attractions within Florenceville-Bristol," the mayor explained. "Our focus for this funding opportunity will allow the town to develop and manage an inventory of active transportation equipment such as bikes and paddle gear to encourage a variety of interactive trail and river adventures."
Florenceville-Bristol Tourism and Business Development Manager Bobbie O'Donnell said the town would use the funds to purchase kayaks, canoes, bicycles and safety equipment like life jackets and bike helmets.
Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for ACOA, said the ACOA program focuses on tourism as the country recovers from the pandemic.
"With the support announced today," Petitpas said in a press release, "Florenceville-Bristol is moving forward with a project that will improve the current tourism infrastructure and increase economic opportunities in the region. This is an important step in the recovery effort as visitors rediscover the world-class tourism experiences Atlantic Canada has to offer."
Town officials describe Riverside Park and the Shogomoc Railway sites as focal points within the town's multi-use pathway, a proposed nine-kilometre active transportation trail system. They explained the trail would draw residents and visitors to a "rewarding linear riverside experience from one end of town to the other.
O'Donnell explained that upon funding approval from Infrastructure Canada, the multi-use pathway, which the town calls MUP, would be a combination of new and existing active non-motorized transportation trails connecting one part of the town to the other.
"Its course will run along the St. John River as much as possible," she said.
O'Donnell said those who want to paddle on the river could already access a non-motorized boat-launch area via a driveway next to the Shogomoc Railway site.
Town officials also note that the adjacent properties celebrate Florenceville-Bristol's relationship with the St. John River, including the Bristol Shiktehawk Indigenous site and estate of former mill owner Michael Welch.
O'Donnell said Riverside Park sits on the site of the former Welch estate.
The historic nature of the sites and adjacent areas reflect the community's rich history of the lumber trade, river transportation and commerce.
Mayor Curtis sees the joint funding to enhance the site as a key to future development.
"Innovation is essential to restoring this site as a tourism destination," he said.
ACOA delivered the funding through the Tourism Relief Fund, a $500 million national initiative created to help organizations and businesses in the tourism sector adapt their operations to meet public health requirements, offer innovative products and services to visitors and prepare to welcome back travellers.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun