Hunter River, Prince Edward IslandA quick picture of this lovely community 15 minutes west of Charlottetown
THE COMMUNITY OF HUNTER RIVER
A QUICK PICTURE 2013
At the intersections of two rivers and three valleys, in the centre of Queens County, in the middle of Prince Edward Island, Hunter River has always been a natural meeting place. Two rivers become one here, where a dam for an old wood mill created a pond, and where a ferry carried horses and carriages before the days of automobiles, paved highways and bridges. Literally, it’s the watershed containment area for the river system affecting all downstream communities north to Rustico Harbour.
Here, in railway days, the road from Cavendish on the north shore down through New Glasgow brought passengers and goods to the train station (the station where Anne of Green Gables would have arrived, to be met by Matthew and taken north over the red clay roads.) Rails and station are gone now; the right-of-way instead is a beautiful nature trail.
Through Hunter River today, tourists crossing the Confederation Bridge to Borden on the south shore travel on to Cavendish, Rustico and Brackley Beach. To and from north and south, Highway 13 is a main artery in the summer. To the north-east, the Bungay Road connects to Wheatley River, and on to Oyster Bed Bridge. To and from east and west, Highway 2 spans the Island, connecting Charlottetown with Kensington and Summerside, New London and Malpeque. An ideal route to Charlottetown for commuters, all year Highway 2 is busy – a top-priority all-weather highway.
The population of the ‘village’ itself is small – a mere 350 or so. But 5,000 or more use its services – the consolidated Elementary School; offices of doctors, dentists and an M.P.; pharmacy, bank, service station/convenience store, café/bakery, and much more. It’s the hub of a large drawing area, funneling traffic in all directions to, from and through the heart of Central Queens.
Every community on P.E.I. justly claims a unique character. But where else has only about 130 houses or apartments, proportionately low municipal tax revenues, while yet able to list all of the following:
∙ United and Presbyterian churches, each with its own cemetery, both offering regular services and Sunday schools (the United Church having a large new facility successfully consolidating the congregations of a former four-point charge);
∙ the modern Central Queens Elementary School, with gymnasium, playing fields, and community school courses;
∙ a regional Family Health Centre, combining excellent facilities for GPs, support staff, and a full-size well-staffed pharmacy;
∙ dentists practising in a modern clinic;
∙ a post office that also redistributes mail to sub-offices;
∙ a café/bakery, providing breakfasts, lunches and fresh baked goods;
∙ an RBC Financial Services (Royal Bank) branch;
∙ a provincial library;
∙ an Irving service station with convenience store;
∙ a real estate office;
∙ a landscaping & garden centre;
∙ a Provincial senior citizens home (LePage Memorial Court);
∙ a private community care facility (Rosewood Residence);
∙ a still ‘new’ 12-unit apartment complex, fully occupied; and more planned;
∙ a Community Centre housing a Community Council office, a CAP Community Access Program internet and computer office, public library, and Senior Citizens Club;
∙ a feed mill, supplying farmers and pet owners;
∙ 2 trucking businesses;
∙ an Above & BeeYond Balloon Adventures business;
∙ an aesthetics studio;
∙ automobile sales, service and parts businesses;
∙ an old wood mill under conversion as a tourist attraction;
∙ 4 regulation-size soccer fields, aside from the school’s playing fields;
∙ a Lion’s Club;
∙ a Women’s Institute, and several other community groups;
∙ horse breeding operations;
∙ an Island Tel automatic exchange;
∙ a Maritime Electric transformer station;
∙ sidewalks and street lighting;
∙ a municipal sewage collection and treatment system;
∙ cable and satellite television availability, and high-speed internet lines;
∙ regular weekly pickups of sorted garbage under the Island Waste Watch program;
∙ the office of the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Malpeque;
∙ and river trout in the pond!
With those assets, it’s no wonder Hunter River is known by everyone as a desirable residential, retirement and Charlottetown dormitory community.
With its low tax base, there is just one part-time municipal employee for administration. Otherwise, Hunter River depends on community-minded volunteers for what it succeeds in doing collectively. And in that respect – community service – it’s not unique at all. Hunter River represents the best characteristics of the Prince Edward Island way of life.
The larger community area:
In the Central Queens United Church on any given Sunday, half the choir will be from the Wheatley River, Hampshire and North Wiltshire areas, the congregation will include members and adherents from even further afield, and a further building expansion was recently completed to accommodate an overflowing Sunday school. The Presbyterian church similarly attracts attendance from miles around.
Few people except Hunter River taxpayers know that Greenvale residents have no community improvement committee of their own. When the municipality of Hunter River was formed, its Council was asked to ‘keep an eye out’ for the needs of the people of neighbouring Greenvale.
Similarly, the wide variety of services available in Hunter River are the focus of residents of:
– St. Patrick
– Rennies Road
– Hazel Grove
– Glen Valley
– and Bungay, as well as Wheatley River (which includes a Masonic Lodge.)
One can view Hunter River as a demographic unit, a municipality with clearly defined borders and easily available lists of residents and property owners. Or one can expand those lists with names from the rural postal routes served from the Hunter River hub.
On any given day walking between the convenience store, post office, bank and Family Health Centre, a large proportion of people greeting each other will be from outside the municipal borders. But they’ll still regard themselves as living in the same community area, because they’re members of the same congregation, or its choir or cemetery committee; members of the Women’s Institute, or the Home & School association, or the Senior Citizens Club; fellow volunteers with the fire department up in New Glasgow which serves much of Central Queens County, or with the emergency measures team in Hunter River; or the Lions or the Freemasons or both. They know each other because they meet often, in many overlapping relationships. They are friends, neighbours and colleagues.
They share common concerns for what happens in and around Hunter River. They attend social, educational, business and political functions here. They join teams to raise funds, and to serve ‘community’ suppers – eat in, take out, or deliver. In soccer, they or their children reach league standard on the multiple soccer fields up Rennies Road.
On that evidence, you’d think the Hunter River Community Council’s annual general meeting would overflow. But most people from ‘the Hunter River area’ are busy with other activities. Besides, they’re not all on the tax rolls of the municipality. They just all live around here.
And never want to move.