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Dear Georgetown:

Through the Annapolis Digby Economic Development Agency Tech Socials, scientists at the Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG) in Middleton had the opportunity to bring new concepts to the public in Annapolis County. Here, I would like to propose three ideas for the consideration of the larger community.

 How can we learn from the history of this region?

Since returning to the Annapolis Valley, I have been working on the ‘Story of COGS.’ As part of this historical research, I tried to answer two questions: Why Lawrencetown? Why a survey school?

It comes down to two men: Dr. J.B Hall and Major Church, who shared a vision over a span of a hundred years. Their idea was simple. To train technically competent professionals who will address the issues of resource management in a rural Canada (and most of Canada is rural) you need educational institutions, which are located in the same landscape. The philosophy was one of ‘learning by doing’.

Why Lawrencetown ? Because that is where James Hall was born and received his early schooling, and where Church retired. Dr. Hall left a trust account in 1928 to fund a vocational school in Annapolis county.

The survey school? Because Church was a surveyor and engineer, who after the Second World War started to train surveyors in the village. This allowed students to get “hands on experience” in land surveying.

As a result of their vision and determination, the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) is with us today. If we apply the same values, shown by these two men, we can realize the economic development opportunity for the region.

Many COGS graduates would like to stay in the region and use their training through the creative use of mapping and data management.

 2) The Community Information Utility

This is perhaps an abstract idea, however in these changing times, it is perhaps the most important. Stated simply, we should put in place a mechanism where community geographic information is widely accessible to everyone. This means we have to change the processes whereby data about the roads, properties, the watersheds, the climate, the topography, and the land use is stored and shared. It makes no sense to maintain information about the geography of three towns without the collaboration of Annapolis County. How can we undertake any planning of our assets if we did not maintain a seamless digital geographic database? I went down this road when trying to assist the three towns, Annapolis Royal, Bridgetown, and Middleton with the CLICK project. This was a municipal application of GIS technology, funded under the Smart Communities program with WVDA, and developed by Esri Canada. It is a simple question of economics.

I championed the CIU by bringing in Paul Beach from Sault Ste Marie, who had implemented a similar idea in Northern Ontario. ACOA funded a consulting study in 2011 on the feasibility for Southwest Nova. With all recent political uncertainty, it has gone nowhere. Regardless of changes to the RDA, or REN, we still need a seamless geographic database of our assets for municipalities to make informed economic decisions.

3) Cultural Mapping

Another ADEDA Tech Social speaker was Greg Baeker. Greg offered a workshop in Annapolis Royal on cultural mapping. This idea has been translated into a cultural map for Kings County (http://kingsculturalmap.wordpress.com), thanks to the efforts of Genevieve Allen, Ed Symonds, and COGS students, an example of collaboration between county and college. Why not expand to the whole of the Annapolis Valley? Why not make it part of the Community Information Utility?

These three ideas are inter-related, with defined roles for government agencies, educational institutions, businesses, and the communities. If you look at the work of Hall and Church, they did not start with government funding, but rather a vision, creativity, and the determination to make a difference. Nothing has changed; we still need all three components.

Dr. Bob Maher

Bob Maher and Heather Stewart currently manage Paradise Orchards, a certified organic apple orchard on the outskirts of Paradise, Annapolis County.