Fixing up New France: A winter’s walk and future plans

As Simple as That -- a column by Jonathan Riley

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on January 17, 2013

A half dozen of us walked a good part of the way to New France last weekend.

We drove all the way down the Langford Road to the Silver River and then hiked in 10km along the snow-covered Silver River Road.

A blanket of white hid the worst of the clear cuts that line the road but the walking was okay thanks to the snowmobiles that had packed the snow into a firm-walking surface.

It was a gorgeous warm sunny day and we met a lot of traffic on the Langford Road – mostly forestry workers. At one big intersection we pulled over to let a wood truck rumble by us.

As we were parking near the Silver River, a big grader came along encouraging us to park well off the road.

On the Silver River Road though we enjoyed the kind of pure silence you can only find deep deep in the woods.

The whole long walk I was in awe, how settlers 150 years ago managed to drag everything they needed back there to build a thriving electric city.

I admit I haven’t read the book yet and I can’t wait to find out how they got everything back there.

Even with the snow cover, the foundations are still clearly visible, especially the Stehelins’ wine cellar. Look as we might, we didn’t find any wine.

Irving removed all the interpretive signage from the site a few years ago and we didn’t really have a lot of time to explore. January hiking often gets cut short by early evenings.

As it was, 20 km of hiking was probably enough for everyone concerned.

I hope to go back in the summer, maybe drive in or bike from the Langford Road or canoe the river.

Maybe camp out, do some swimming and really explore and enjoy this gorgeous Nova Scotian lake and woodlands.

I also want to see the ‘other’ balancing rock back there.

Rod LeFort of the Weymouth Waterfront Development Committee says the road conditions are rough and he doesn’t encourage anyone to drive back unless they have a truck or an SUV.

He’s currently heading up a project to renovate a building in Weymouth, the old library, for use as an interpretive centre for the Electric City.

The WWDC got $20,000 for the project from ACOA and are matching that right now by spending money fixing up the building.

The plan is to bring in some consultants to help them plan displays about New France.

LeFort says they have several artefacts from the site including bureaus and other furniture. They have even been offered a piano that came from the Electric City but they’ve been having trouble actually locating it.

The committee is looking into creating a short video and developing training for guides at the interpretive centre. Eventually they would like to be able to take visitors on tours of New France itself.

Before they can do that, LeFort would like to see some light trail work done and some interpretive signage put up.

“This is part of our effort to promote and preserve the heritage and culture of the area,” said LeFort. “We want to keep people in the area longer and give them something to do during an extended stay.”

From what I saw last weekend, the ingredients are certainly there. This diamond in the rough won’t need much polishing at all.

In fact, I’d recommend the lightest possible polishing to preserve the areas charm and natural beauty.

( I have a few more photos on flickr)