Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island

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Wood Islands is a Canadian rural farming and fishing community located in southeastern Queens County, Prince Edward Island on the Northumberland Strait.

Wood Islands lighthouses seen from ferry

The population of the community is unavailable as a result of its small size; Wood Islands falls under the larger township Lot 62, which has a population (1996) of 554 residents.

It takes its name from several small forested islands located several hundred metres offshore in the Northumberland Strait. These islands are permanently linked by sand bars to form Wood Islands Harbour, a sheltered harbour which hosts a ferry service to Caribou, Nova Scotia operated by Northumberland Ferries Limited, as well as a small craft fishing harbour. The southwestern shore of the lagoon forming Wood Islands Harbour is also the southernmost point in Prince Edward Island with coordinates 45º65'54"N, 62º45'18"W.

Wood Islands Provincial Park, a picnic area, is located southeast of the ferry terminal on the largest of the islands and adjacent to the Wood Islands Lighthouse, an automated light station operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. The Wood Islands Lighthouse is now a museum operated by a local community group and can be toured daily from mid July to mid September.[1]

The ferry terminal in the community is the eastern terminus of Route 1, the Trans-Canada Highway in the province.

Railway service[edit]

In 1905 the federal government funded its Crown corporation, the Prince Edward Island Railway, to build a branch railway line between Southport and Murray Harbour in order to bring rail service to southeastern Prince Edward Island. The rail line was approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) inland from the shore so the train station for Wood Islands was actually located in an area called Wood Islands North. Trains stopped running through Wood Islands in the mid-1980s when CN Rail abandoned the line east of Kinross.

Ferry service[edit]

Ever since the federal government established a subsidized ferry service in 1917 between Borden, PEI and Cape Tormentine, NB under Crown corporation Canadian National Railways, residents of eastern Prince Edward Island had lobbied their elected representatives for an alternative service to Pictou, Nova Scotia; the Borden - Cape Tormentine ferry having replaced a government steamship service between Georgetown and Pictou.

In 1935, Prime Minister MacKenzie King brought Saskatchewan politician Charles A. Dunning back into federal politics to economically resurrect the nation from the Great Depression and appointed him Minister of Finance. Dunning was elected by acclamation as a parachute candidate in the dual riding of Queen's (it had 2 MPs at the time). Residents seized upon this opportunity and elicited a promise from the King government to establish a ferry service from southeastern PEI to Caribou, NS, near the town of Pictou.

The location of the PEI terminal was a source of controversy as the deepest water on the PEI shore suitable for a ferry dock was located just east of the Kings County boundary in Little Sands, several kilometres east of Wood Islands. However, given that Dunning represented the riding of Queen's, the Little Sands location was rejected in favour of a terminal located at Wood Islands, to better help the residents of his electoral district, despite its inferior water depth.

The federal government set about building a ferry port in the community's small harbour, dredging sand from the harbour bottom and constructing wharves. A new privately owned company, Northumberland Ferries Limited, was established to manage and operate the seasonal ferry service under license for the federal government, which retained ownership of the terminals, real property and vessels.

Dunning left politics in 1939 but the ferry service was instituted nevertheless in 1941 and has continued uninterrupted under the NFL banner to the present day, using several used and new vessels over the decades. Today it remains the only ferry service to the mainland after Confederation Bridge opened in 1997. A major redevelopment of the Wood Islands terminal took place in the early 1990s before the new high capacity M/V Confederation entered service in 1993.

In 2004 the provincial government opened a new visitor information centre complex in the community at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 4, immediately north of the ferry terminal, replacing an older facility on the ferry terminal property. This visitor information centre complex is operated by the Wood Islands and Area Development Corporation. Wood Islands is home to the 70-Mile Coastal Yard Sale held in September each year [2] and the Mermaid Tears Sea Glass Festival [3] held in July each year.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°57′57.9″N 62°45′3.7″W / 45.966083°N 62.751028°W / 45.966083; -62.751028