SHERBROOKE – Richard Oland decided that a morning breakfast with Premier Stephen McNeil and St. Mary’s council on Aug. 2 was a good time to announce his family’s donation of 660 acres of land to support rural sustainability efforts. The donation will boost the efforts of a new initiative called the Rural Institute for Cultural Heritage and Environmental Sustainability (RICHES).
The mandate of RICHES is to provide training and opportunities to make use of the “cultural and natural riches” of rural Nova Scotia, with the aim of building increased capacity for cultural and economic development while fostering the vibrancy of rural communities. With a special focus on the Eastern Shore, the project will sustainable rural tourism in cultural and natural heritage alongside programming to enrich rural life through continual learning and skills training — including in experiential tourism.
Most of the donated land — 450 acres — is along the St. Mary’s River. The remaining 210 acres run along the number 7 highway near McKeen’s Brook.
According Sherbrooke Village Executive Director Stephen Flemming, the land had been in the Oland family since the 1930s.
“It was a time when people were thinking about salmon fishing and conservation along the river,” he said during a telephone interview Tuesday. “Years go by, and the land was passed down. Richard was looking for an opportunity to make a contribution to something special.”
He said the Oland family wanted to support the RICHES program as a way of helping develop rural economies. “He felt that RICHES was a way to help and that this land would be a great place for teaching about sustainable tourism and ecotourism. It will also be a great place for artists’ to flourish. Having this beautiful site along the St. Mary’s River, untouched, is a very inspirational place.”
With RICHES in its earliest days, Flemming says “it’s an absolutely amazing donation. It really helps us legitimize and get the RICHES program off the ground. We’ve had a recent investment from Province of N.S. of $68,500 to help us with the outreach and development of these ideas with communities. So with that investment plus this investment from the Oland family with an amazing parcel of land that can act as a teaching site, the program is off to the races. We’re beginning.”
Flemming said RICHES programming will start this fall, with some basic forest ecology and bird study work, mostly with resident birds.
“It’ll be about how forest systems work...the basics in sustainable forest management.”
Cabinet Minister Lloyd Hines, MLA for Guysborough - Eastern Shore - Tracadie, and Randy Delorey, MLA for Antigonish, were in attendance for the announcement and “were also pleasantly surprised by (Oland’s) decision to formally talk about the donation of land to the public,” said Fleming. “It was a very special morning. He talked from the heart about what his family’s intention was and his contribution to this initiative.”
The Historic Sherbrooke Village Society is a non-for-profit local volunteer organization that supports the objectives of Sherbrooke Village Museum and the community.