Public education and participation has been a major part of building the strength of the organization. Throughout the years, FOPE has had a presence at the Canada Day Parade, has provided Estuary Tours during HarbourFest, has made presentations to school and community groups, has entertained a wide variety of guest speakers at Annual General Meetings, and has built up the Annual Flotilla to more than 100 participants. People have also become more involved as the results of projects have become physically visible in the community.
Partnerships with other groups remain central to the success of the organization
The Community Aquatic Monitoring Program (CAMP) has been ongoing since 2005 and involves collecting data on species, numbers, water quality and other relevant conditions from six sites throughout the Estuary. This is done in conjunction with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Coalition on Sustainability (SGSL Coalition). This information becomes part of a larger pool that involves communities throughout the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Adopt a Stream Program focuses on habitat restoration in the tributaries that flow into the Pugwash River. This work includes putting in digger logs to improve water flow and deepen pools, clearing culverts to allow fish to move freely, repairing fish ladders, and erecting fencing to keep cattle out of streams. Adopt a Stream is funded and administered by the Nova Scotia Salmon Federation. The Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corp partially sponsors two students to help with all summer work.
Stewardship: Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) has protected more than 1000 acres in the Estuary, and FOPE works closely with them by assuming stewardship over several sections and by combining with NCC each June in an effort to control the glossy buckthorn, a very aggressive invasive species.
County Consultation: FOPE members helped organize and participated in the Cumberland County Sustainable Development Strategy for the Pugwash River Watershed.
In 2013, FOPE achieved Charitable Status which enabled us to move forward on a long-held dream of owning land on the Estuary. Thanks to some generous donors, we now own eight acres of land with a house, two barns and an osprey nest.
The house has been renovated into a meeting place/office, and if necessary, temporary accommodation for visiting researchers. A large network of interpretive trails have been developed. We are currently working on the barn as an area where canoes and kayaks can be stored to make this truly a centre of paddling for the Pugwash River.
Our next jobs include setting up an interpretive centre in the gazebo and working on ways to introduce nature to children. We also wish to develop a launching area for canoes and kayaks.
Looking to the future we hope to have a research affiliation with a university, a teaching center for schools, and an all-round welcoming place for the general public.