I woke up this morning with my family aboard a sailboat at a peaceful anchorage in Mahone Bay just a couple of hours sail from home. And shared my thoughts: “We are so privileged to be doing this. Not just having the boat, but to be able to sail where we want and drop the anchor where we deem best, want without paying a toll to anyone, and to enjoy this beautiful scenery so freely.”
The first settlers of Lunenburg must have been in awe at such freedom. What we now call Germany was at the time an assortment of many principalities of various sizes. Going down the “highway” of the river Rhine to Rotterdam, where they boarded the ship that would take them across the Atlantic, the emigrants would have been stopped at every border crossing and paid tolls. Many of them had even needed to secure permission from their feudal lord to leave the land they were bonded to as peasants. Once they reached Lunenburg in 1753, they must have been very appreciative of the freedom to profit from their own labour and build their future with their own hands.
Even some of the modern-day German immigrants to Nova Scotia that I know have expressed to me their appreciation of the freedom they have here in a society that is less regulated than the one they left behind.
The Mahone Islands Conservation Association (MICA) works to protect public access to the islands of Mahone Bay, as well as to preserve their natural environment. The islands are increasingly under pressure by private owners and developers. Natural shorelines and nesting habitats are disrupted (photo right). Owners of some islands chase visitors off beaches that have long been used by the general public. (Some have been known to brandish guns in their efforts, something that Canadians or at least Nova Scotians just don’t do.)
From what I understand, depending on the type of deed, the intertidal zone has legally remained public except in a few cases where water rights were transferred. In a country where travel by boat was the norm, the right to land on a shore would have been an issue of public safety. Nowadays, it seems that there is a trend for private property rights to be extended into the intertidal zone – whether by deed, by custom, by complicity of the authorities or by ignorance by the public, I don’t know. Enlighten me if you know anything more about this issue, please, by commenting below.
Meanwhile, I take pleasure in seeing the decendants of the original Lunenburg settlers, with names such as Meisner and Ernst, involved in MICA, perserving public access to the islands of Mahone Bay for future generations of humans and seabirds.