Bridgewater, Nova Scotia
A postcard showing King Street
|Nickname(s): Main Street of the South Shore|
|Incorporated||February 13, 1899|
|• Body||Bridgewater Town Council|
|• Mayor||David Walker|
|• MLA||Mark Furey (L)|
|• MP||Gerald Keddy (C)|
|• Town||13.61 km2 (5.25 sq mi)|
|• Urban||13.79 km2 (5.32 sq mi)|
|Elevation||22.11 m (72.54 ft)|
|• Density||610/km2 (1,600/sq mi)|
|• Urban density||600/km2 (1,600/sq mi)|
|Time zone||AST (UTC−4)|
|• Summer (DST)||ADT (UTC−3)|
|Telephone Exchange||212, 298, 521, 523, 527, 529, 530, 541, 543, 553|
Bridgewater is a town in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, Canada, at the navigable limit of the LaHave River. It is the largest town in the South Shore region. While the majority of the South Shore's economy is based upon the tourist trade, Bridgewater is more a commercial and industrial centre and attracts far fewer visitors. One of the primary employers is a Michelin tire plant.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Modern-day Bridgewater
- 4 Crime
- 5 Notables
- 6 External links
- 7 References
The first European settlers of the town came from the nearby settlements of Lunenburg, Riverport and LaHave, constructing the first house in 1812 on the west bank of the river (although the first house in what is now the town was built before 1803).
The town was named after the bridge built over the LaHave River. The commissioners for the construction of the first bridge were three brothers-in-law, George Heb, John Weil and John Vienot.
The town was incorporated on February 13, 1899, shortly after suffering a fire which devastated the entire downtown area. For much of the 20th century, the town's economy depended on forestry and a large wood mill in the center of town, as well as the Nova Scotia Central Railway and later the Halifax and Southwestern Railway, for which the town acted as a central hub for the South Shore region. The Acadia Marine Engine Company was based in Bridgewater and it made fishboat and coaster engines.
After the wood mill closed, a period of bust followed until a new Michelin plant opened within town limits in the early 1970s, providing employment for some 1,000 people. The abandoned passenger train station burnt to the ground in the early 1980s, shortly after a revitalization plan was announced. Freight rail service continued to the town until the early 1990s when Canadian National Railway abandoned the line and the tracks were removed. The rail yard property on the east bank of the LaHave River is now occupied by the Bridgewater Mall and various retail businesses.
Since the 1990s, the town has tried to come up with solutions for problems that have crippled other areas of the Maritime provinces: economic decline and an aging population. Michelin remains the town's largest employer by far and has helped to stem economic decline, but the number of people under 19 years of age living in the town continues to slide, falling by 12.2% between 1996 and 2006, despite overall population growth of 8%. Unable to stem this decline, the town has embraced it and is now marketing itself as a retirement destination not only for older citizens from the area, but also for residents of near-by Halifax Regional Municipality. This has resulted in the recent construction of several large retirement complexes. There has also been migration from Europe to the town and surrounding areas, as well as from Halifax, where Bridgewater is increasingly seen as a remote suburb rather than an entirely disconnected town. As a result of these efforts, Bridgewater is experiencing a building boom and remains one of the fastest growing entities in the entire province and has been for a number of years. Town Council for Bridgewater has also become a leader in Sustainability and their 'Sustainable Bridgewater' plan is used as a model by other Municipalities.
Bridgewater is split in two by the LaHave River, with the majority of the town's land area situated on the western bank of the river. The town spans the LaHave River Valley and is dominated by hills that lead down to the river. Elevation ranges from 5 metres above sea level (at the river), to nearly 110 m at the highest point at the Olde Towne Golf Course on the southwestern limit of the town. The surrounding area is characterized by rolling drumlins formed during the last glacial period, some of which reach 150 m above sea level. There are also several streams which empty into the river. The LaHave River is traversed by two bridges in the centre of the town, and a 103 highway overpass and a foot bridge (formerly a railway crossing) towards the northern limits.
On a basic level, the town is split in two by the LaHave River. The western bank of the river was the area first developed more than 200 years ago. Today it remains the most heavily populated part of the town and is home to the Bridgewater Industrial Park (where Michelin is located) and most other civic amenities. The eastern bank of the river was home, for many years, to a large lumber yard and train station. This area developed rapidly in the last quarter of the 20th century with the arrival of the Bridgewater Mall and a large subdivision. Today, this area remains the commercial heart of the town and the centre of population growth. As of the 2011 census, the eastern side of town held 37% of the total population, up from 33% in 2006. Compared to the previous census, the population of the western side of town declined 2%, while the eastern side increased by 16%.
There are few distinctive neighbourhoods in the town, and most designations rely solely on subdivision names. The Pinecrest Subdivision and low income housing centered along Marie Avenue remain the only major residential development on the western side of the town in the last 25 years, while the eastern flank has seen rapid growth, including the Glen Allan Subdivision, and two large mobile home parks. Most of these areas, however, are built-out, so development is now spilling out into the county. Hebbville has seen the development of the now older Catidian Place and the much more recent Botany Lane, while bordering Conquerall Bank is hosting the still-growing Meadowbrook Subdivision, arguably the most upscale development in the Bridgewater area. The Cookville area also continues to see growth in the Osprey Ridge area. With the exception of Glen Allan, most new residential developments within town limits are the result of urban infill.
Bridgewater experiences a humid continental climate as does most of eastern Canada. The South Shore's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean influences the climate to a significant degree, such that the region is usually somewhat milder than most of Canada during the winter months. Nevertheless winters are cold, damp and generally overcast with snowfall occurring often, as well as frequent rain. Summers, while usually less extreme than inland central Canada, are warm to hot and generally quite humid, with frequent storms and showers. Autumn and spring are often wildly unpredictable, and snowfall as early as the first week of October is not unheard of.
On March 22, 2012, during the 2012 North American heat wave, the high temperature in Bridgewater reached 30 degrees Celsius, the second-highest temperature recorded in March in Canada.
|Climate data for Bridgewater|
|Record high °C (°F)||19.5
|Average high °C (°F)||0.2
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−5.1
|Average low °C (°F)||−10.4
|Record low °C (°F)||−32.0
|Precipitation mm (inches)||156.9
|Rainfall mm (inches)||102.9
|Snowfall cm (inches)||54.0
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm)||15.0||12.7||13.9||14.4||14.2||12.3||11.6||10.7||11.9||14.0||14.9||15.6||161.2|
|Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm)||8.4||6.9||10.0||13.5||14.1||12.3||11.6||10.7||11.9||13.9||14.0||11.0||138.2|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm)||9.4||8.0||6.5||2.7||0.30||0||0||0||0||0.17||1.9||7.2||36.2|
|Source: Environment Canada|
While most smaller centres in Nova Scotia have experienced economic and population declines in the last 30 years, Bridgewater is one of the few that has been able to attract new residents. The town's population increased from 6,619 in 1986 to 8,241 in 2011. It was the second fastest growing location in Nova Scotia greater than 5,000 people between the period 2006 and 2011. The official website of the town shows that at least 600 new residential units have been approved since 2007 (including senior residences); in comparison, the town counted 3,735 residential units in 2006 and 3,465 in 2001. Historically, Bridgewater is one of the only locations in Nova Scotia outside of Halifax County that showed consistent population growth over the span of the 20th century. While the population of many Nova Scotian centres are actually lower now than they were in 1951 (including Sydney, New Glasgow, Amherst and Yarmouth, among others), Bridgewater has almost doubled its population during that time. There was a strong boom in population between 1961 and 1981 in particular, this reflecting the arrival of Michelin and the large number of jobs it brought.
Most of this growth, however, is coming at the older end of the age spectrum, which has been caused by a general aging trend in the province, and an increasingly number of retirement and nursing homes in the town. According to the 1996, 2006, and 2011 censuses, every age group from 0 to 39 has consistently seen their portion of the town population shrink, while there has been consistent growth in every age group over 50.
As of 2006, 3.9% of town residents classified themselves as immigrants, most having immigrated before 1991. 1.4% of the population listed French as their mother tongue, while 6.3% considered themselves bilingual. 2.3% listed another language as their mother tongue. 53.3% of the population was female, a figure nearly two percent higher than the province as a whole.
Being more industrial than its now tourist-driven neighbours Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, much traditional culture has been lost in the town, having been replaced with mainstream affairs such as the annual Canada Day Celebration. Unique cultural events include the Hank Snow Music Festival and the South Shore Exhibition. Over 100 years-old, the "Big Ex," as it is locally known, is primarily a week-long agricultural fair that is held each July, attracting around 50,000 people. One of its traditional featured events is the International Ox Pull, bringing together teams come from the Maritimes and the Northeastern United States.
Like much of Lunenburg County, many of Bridgewater's residents can trace their lineage back to the Foreign Protestants who arrived in the 18th century. While much of that original culture has been lost, especially in Bridgewater, a few remnants remain. Lunenburg pudding, a type of pork sausage, is still widely available, and some residents still speak in an accent unique to the county, dubbed Lunenburg English, featuring one of the few non-rhotic speech patterns remaining in Canada.
Community music has been a part of Bridgewater's heritage for almost a century and a half. The Bridgewater Fire Department Band has been a fixture in the town since 1868. The South Shore Chorale, a seventy-voice mixed chorus, has been active since the 1960s. For many years, the Hospital Chorus and Drama Society (now defunct) helped to raise funds for the Dawson Memorial Hospital (later South Shore Regional Hospital) through its production of Broadway-style musicals.
Education and health
The town is primarily served by Bridgewater Elementary and Bridgewater Junior Senior High Schools, both located on York Street, near downtown. These aging facilities manage to serve the needs of the town's youth, but lack near-by athletic fields. Park View Education Centre, located at the northern edge of the town, serves grades 10-12 and takes part in the International Baccalaureate program. This facility mainly acts as a collector school for students from the rural areas of the county, although some Bridgewater residents do attend as well. Centre Scolaire de la Rive-Sud, opened in 2010 in Cookville (just outside the town limits) is a French education school, part of Nova Scotia's Acadian school system (CSAP - Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial), offering a primarily French-language education to Francophone families in the area. The Lunenburg campus of the Nova Scotia Community College is located on High St, sharing space with the local YMCA. The town also has two provincial museums, The DesBrisay and the Wile Carding Mill, and a central library.
According to the 2001 census, of the town's population between ages 20–64, 24.3% had not received a high school diploma while 56% had received at least some sort of post secondary degree or certificate. Both figures were slightly better than the average for Nova Scotia (25.3% and 54%, respectively), and significantly better than the larger Lunenburg County (30.1% and 50.9%) and neighbouring Queens County (37% and 42%).
Bridgewater is served by the South Shore Regional Hospital located on Glen Allen Drive. This facility, inaugurated in 1988, replaced the 1960s-era Dawson Memorial Hospital located on the south western side of the town. The SSRH serves as the major hospital in the county and offers most standard services.
Industry and employment
Most employment in the town is in the service sector, although tire-manufacturer Michelin remains by far the single largest employer. Other industry includes an AbitibiBowater lumber Mill located in Oakhill. The town's second largest employer is Millennium 1 Solutions, a call-centre, and other major employers are Atlantic Superstore, Sobeys and Wal-Mart.
In 2005, the average earnings for all census families was $49,754, more than $4,500 below the provincial average. For married couples, this figure was $56,275, and for single parents, it was $26,362.
While the town has no local television stations, it is served by CKBW-FM radio - an award-winning broadcaster, and Lighthouse Publishing, which operates a popular media portal. CKBW, recently celebrating its 60th year in operation, can boast that it gave acclaimed actor Donald Sutherland his start in the media as he started working for the station at age 14. The CKBW News team has received two regional RTNDA Awards and has been a finalist for an Atlantic Journalism Award. CKBW-FM has shifted its music focus several times over the past two decades, and now airs mostly contemporary pop music. It recently began operating sister-station Hank-FM, which airs country and western style music. The weekly Bridgewater Bulletin, has been in publication since 1888 and had won numerous awards for its content and lay-out. The company also distributes the Lighthouse Log, a free weekend paper.
Parks and recreation
Residents of Bridgewater enjoy a relatively extensive parks system, which the town estimates at 100 acres (0.40 km2). This, however, does not include open green space within the town, the inclusion of which would give a much higher total. The crown jewel of the parks system continues to be the 25-acre (100,000 m2) Woodland Gardens, locally known at the "Duck Pond." This park includes The DesBrisay Museum, the town's only public swimming pool, a large pond and various trails. Notably, during the 1970s, Participaction had set up rudimentary exercise equipment around these trails, but these have since been removed. Other parks include Pinecrest and Glen Allen, both playgrounds, and Riverview Park, overlooking the rapids of the LaHave River. The system also includes smaller parks such as a gazebo downtown and a boat launch park and grandstand on lower King Street. As well, the town hosts 8 kilometres of the Centennial Trail which was constructed over abandoned rail lines.
Recreation facilities in the town are slowly improving after decades of stagnation. Currently, the town hosts the Kinsmen Field (a soccer field, baseball diamond and tennis courts), the LaHave baseball/soccer fields at Glen Allen Drive and LaHave Street, a curling club and a skating/hockey arena. In 2008, the South Shore Fieldhouse Society started construction on a $1.7 million indoor track & field at Glen Allan Drive. Meanwhile, the town and Lunenburg County have teamed up to construct a multi-purpose facility. Despite guaranteed funding from the province of Nova Scotia for one centre, the two governmental entities had been bickering for most of the past decade over exactly where it would be located: in the county (near the new Wal-Mart development, as the county wanted), or within town limits. At one time, both stated their intentions to build their own centres, but both eventually decided that the $30-million facility will be built on Wentzell Road in Bridgewater. Dubbed the "Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre," it will likely include two ice surfaces, an aquatic centre, a new town library, and a multipurpose centre likely to be used as an auditorium for the performing arts. Construction began in late 2011.
The current chair of the Parks, Recreation and Culture Advisory Committee is Town Councillor David Mitchell.
Though the LaHave River was the main transportation route in historical times, today it is mainly used for pleasure craft, though there is a wharf at nearby Dayspring and a cable ferry located in LaHave, which is the only crossing downriver from Bridgewater. The Halifax and Southwestern Railway once passed through the town but the line is now abandoned. The main road serving the town is Highway 103, which has two primary exits entering the town. Trunk highways 10 and 3 meet at Bridgewater. Other provincial highways are Route 325 and Route 331.
As the town continues to grow, traffic issues are becoming a concern. The town is currently discussing installing its first roundabout at one of its busier intersections, although progress remains stalled. Complicating the easing of future traffic issues, especially if the town continues to grow as it has recently, is the unique geography of the town; only two bridges traverse the LaHave River within town limits, and many of the busiest roads run directly through residential districts.
There is no form of public transportation. Taxi rates are set at a fixed price of $6 for travel between any two points within town limits. There have been recent feasibility studies into public transit between Bridgewater, Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, but the project remains in limbo as of late 2010. Trius Tours runs a once daily bus service between Bridgewater and Halifax in the morning, and a return route in the evening.
Bridgewater is known as the "Mainstreet of the South Shore" and has always been the shopping centre of Lunenburg County and, to a lesser extent, Queens County as well. The King Street area of downtown was the traditional shopping district of the town well into the mid-20th century, and Town Hall remains committed to the area, even though it has been long-ago surpassed by several other developments. The Bridgewater Mall, first developed in the 1970s, replacing on old rail yard, continues to be the commercial heart of the town, stealing that title from the King Street area which had dominated for many years. The addition of the adjacent Eastside Plaza during the last major renovation in the late 1980s only solidified this claim. However, its dominance has been greatly challenged since 2005 with the arrival of a Wal-Mart in Cookville to the north east of the town and a number of adjacent stores. Some of these outlets had previously been located in the Bridgewater Mall, and the shopping centre has had a difficult time finding suitable replacements. The mall continues to be anchored by Zellers and Sobeys, while several bank branches, a movie theatre, The Atlantic Superstore and Home Hardware are all located nearby. The King Street area, anchored by two banks and formerly the town Post Office, is mostly home to local business. The Bridgewater Plaza, located in the southern area of town near the Nova Scotia Community College, continues to thrive despite numerous hits - Kmart closed in the mid-1990s and Canadian Tire relocated to Cookville in 2006. It is now anchored by discount grocery chain No Frills and Giant Tiger, both of which opened in 2010. The No Frills location was previously a Save Easy and before that an IGA, and has been in continual operation as a grocery store for nearly 50 years despite the name changes. The South Shore Mall, located on the eastern edge of town, once home to a movie theatre, grocery and department store, had been completely abandoned by the late 1990s and is slated for redevelopment as a convention centre, hotel, apartment buildings and shops, although progress remains at a standstill as of June 2012. Leasing is now available as this new development begins.
The mid-to-late 1990s represented the recent nadir of retailing in Bridgewater as the town had lost, in the previous decade, three department stores (Kmart, The Metropolitan and Peoples), two grocery stores (a Sobeys location and a Foodmaster) and well as its only movie theatre. As a result, many residents were travelling to nearby Halifax to do their shopping and the town was losing out on much business. Through the early-mid-2000s (decade), however, a renaissance of sorts occurred as a new theatre was built and a major new shopping development occurred in Cookville, including Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire, among others, while the town itself attracted a number of nationally-known brands, such as No Frills, Giant Tiger, and The Bulk Barn.
Official crime statistics are not available for Bridgewater. Violent crime is rare and most crime stems from petty property damage, and drug offenses. The last major crime to occur in the town took place in 2008 with the murder of 12-year-old Karissa Boudreau, a crime for which her mother was eventually convicted. The Bridgewater Police Service, as well as recently relocating to a new, modern facility, has moved towards community based policing, working closely with Neighbourhood Watch programs and local schools, as well as adding foot and bicycle patrols in areas that squad cars are unable to reach.
Currently the Bridgewater Police Service is governed by the Bridgewater Police Commission. This is made up of both political and citizen appointees. The current chair of the Bridgewater Police Board is Councillor David Mitchell.