Murray River’s issues won’t be solved by slab fence

Second Opinion by Paul MacNeill, publisher

Murray River is a picturesque village with a very questionable future. It is at the epicenter of the demographic tsunami barrelling its way toward Prince Edward Island. Between 2006 and 2011 the village population dropped a staggering 22.3 per cent from 430 to 334. It marked the single largest drop in eastern PEI during which time the provincial population increased 3.2 per cent.

There are 191 private homes in Murray River, but residents occupy only 152.

The issues facing Murray River are immense and complicated. They require imaginative thinking, risk taking and effort from all residents, not just a few concerned citizens, or those who sit on council.

Instead of a focus on tomorrow Murray River is garnering headlines for something far less productive: ignorance and silliness.

Over the past 25 years the once vibrant Main Street has been in steady decline. The grocery store closed. A service station closed. The car dealership closed more than 20 years ago. The village is still home to a small, but enthusiastic business community. CIBC remains. There is a new service station/convenience store. The Old General Store and Magik Dragon cater to tourists.

But, these businesses and a dwindling population cannot continue to fund even basic services.

The ghosts of businesses past are now found in the derelict buildings that line Main Street. As part of a road expansion project, the provincial government tore down several of those buildings. Attached to the back of one sat the remains of Murray River’s historical train station. The station is a shadow of its former self, but a group of local residents, called Friends of the Station, is committed to bringing it back to its former glory and potentially act as a catalyst to economic growth in the community.

It’s worked elsewhere. History and culture are proven economic drivers and increasingly sought after by aging tourists. It’s worked in Montague, Cardigan and Elmira.

It might be part of the solution in Murray River.

For every project there are naysayers, those who oppose everything, but never provide solutions. Normally the most effective strategy is to ignore these nattering nabobs of negativity (to borrow a quote about the press from former US Vice-President Spiro Agnew) and press on.

It is more difficult in Murray River where opposition has grappled onto a significant hole in the argument put forward by pro-station supporters. The village owns the train station but the Friends and supporters claim there will be no cost to the village. It’s a hole you can drive a truck through. The only sure-fire way of ensuring no liability to the village is to transfer ownership to the Friends.

Because transfer has not occurred, opponents can hang their hat on a single point, while blissfully ignoring key reasons for development.

Where were opponents as empty buildings grew increasingly dilapidated, gradually becoming an eyesore? In Murray River there are apparently degrees of ugly.

What will opponents do to ensure the village has the fiscal resources necessary to provide services, especially as the community ages? What solutions do they suggest to the critical issues facing Murray River? With such a narrow-minded view of community, how in the hell will Murray River even begin to attract new residents, an absolute necessity for the community to remain viable?

Who will opponents sell their homes to if there is no business, no services and an ever-decreasing number of residents in the village? Even if they are lucky enough to sell, it will be for a fraction of the value.

To put the opposition in context, one resident is constructing a fence, made of slab timber, to block his view of the train station. It is intentionally ugly.

Pick an adjective: juvenile, silly, childish, stupid, counter-productive. They all apply.

Redevelopment of the train station in Murray River is an idea worthy of exploration. If opponents fear having to pay for it (even though there is plenty of justification why the village should be a partner), simply eliminate that argument. Then ignore the naysayers and move forward.

Slab fences do not build a community. They do not pay for street cleaning, or fire protection. They do not maintain parks. They do not create a welcoming atmosphere for anyone who might consider moving to the village.

And they certainly don’t inspire new thinking, leadership, or the action our times demand.

If the slab fence is allowed to win it just might be the last thing standing in Murray River.

Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at


Anonymous on Wed, 12/04/2013 - 11:59

Great article. It is a pity that the same couple of naysayers keep dwelling on their dislike for one particular individual will not put aside their childish and petty attitudes and add something constructive to the issue. With childish behavior like theirs no wonder Murray River is in decline.

Anonymous on Thu, 11/28/2013 - 12:06

Well, I've been called a lot of things in my life, but “Nattering Nabob” is a first, ha! Guessing though that you've been told many times Mr. MacNeill that your comments are biased, a conflict of interest, and almost an abuse of power, considering you're the Publisher of the newspaper. Then again, you likely call it “Freedom Of The Press” so touche!!! I digress.
Firstly sir, you clearly don't have a grasp on one of the main issues regarding this entire matter. Same being that ONE Councillor and his little band of merrymen, most of which aren't even Murray River residents, taking this heritage project upon himself, without any input and/or approval of those he “supposedly” represents. Aside from the rats that have migrated to my barn from the torn down buildings, this blatant lack of respect being my main issue. I was advised by Carol Craswell of DOT that “OUR VILLAGE” owns the train station. I'll repeat that, “OUR VILLAGE”! Not ONE person.
So what do you propose we should create here? A new Post Office maybe? Would have been a great idea but “Too Late”. An Interpretive Centre? Again, “Too Late”, we have one at our golf course that might get 10 visitors per year. A new restaurant maybe? Two have recently opened in the Village and maybe 5 cars at any given time are in their parking lots. A new craft shop? Nope, “Too Late” again, already have 2 of them. So what else? How about we just say something like, “Well, we'll do something with it”, then 5-10 years later and several thousands (millions.) of tax payers dollars have been “pissed away”. Then again, our Governments do that very well these days.

The hidden fact that you clearly don't comprehend sir, and the bottom line, is that this is ONE persons arrogant quest, dating back to the very FIRST article in the Graphic regarding the salvaging of the train station. And this is common place conversation, knowledge, and a main “bone of contention” among many residents in the Village. Have a nice day... Wayne Burke, Murray River...

Anonymous on Thu, 11/28/2013 - 22:58

Wayne, with all due respect, is it your understanding of democracy that those who yell the most get their way?

If so, then I must disagree with you, because I feel that is the way of an immature schoolyard bully. It contributes nothing to a respectful and intelligent and meaningful debate that is desperately needed about the future of a community in decline. That is exactly what Paul's opinion editorial discusses.

What are your suggestions for improving the community? You point out all the problems and offer no solutions. Negativity begets negativity and accomplishes nothing.

Anonymous on Thu, 02/06/2014 - 17:43

It was my understanding that democracy was the political system where the people make decisions. Opinions are stated and votes are made. Not one person making a decision and throwing a tantrum when the people do not agree, while planning to move ahead without any regard for the people. That sir, is more akin to a dictatorship. Again, the "friends of the station" have not made a single point in how restoring this rag tag station can benefit the community. They were asked what kind of business they wish to see within, they came up short on their argument.

The people of the village have openly voiced their opinion that they do not wish to have the station restored. The space could be used for a new building with far more promise than an old station which is held up by nailed together boards and cinder blocks.

The people of Murray River have made it clear they do not want it, we all had to sit through almost an hour of argument by the friends of the station, yet none of us were given the opportunity to voice our opinions before being cut off by a biased Moderator.

I would love to hear reasons why we should repair the bloody thing and how it could benefit us. Real tangent reasons rather than the prattle that has been spewed to us.

Anonymous on Thu, 11/28/2013 - 00:30

I feel the village council does not put much into the village, be it money or ideas for beautification. Look at Murray Harbour, for instance. They have a nice spot by their bridge overlooking the boats, nice street lights. Most properties are kept up and looked after and foreigners are buying up homes and are becoming involved in different things in the community. Nothing gets done in Murray River because property owners know nothing will happen if they let their grass grow up to their windows. No one is going to buy a home cause there is nothing here to entice them. It is sad to see how the village is fading away. They need to get a chairperson and councillors that are willing to work towards bringing back a viable place to live.

Anonymous on Wed, 11/27/2013 - 19:23
Title: Murray River

It's all about collective will, Paul. A community vision is needed. That leads to enthusiasm and then motivation. Murray River needs to find out what its story is and continue the narrative into the future.
What is that thing that will bring people together? I knew Murray River when I was a kid. I lived just down the road at Murray Harbour. Great people in both places. They can turn things around if they want to.
Building fences? I think not.

Larry Powell

Anonymous on Wed, 11/27/2013 - 17:29

Well said,I believe it is time for the village to open their eyes.
We need to get more positive,and proud of such a beautiful village as we have.
We need to promote this village, as a nice retirement village.
Murray Harbour and Murray River need to work together, and become one community.A nursing home in Murray Harbour would benefit Murray River.
Murray River could have a R N nurse in the new building,worth fighting for.
Keep up the good work with the station,it should become a railroad museum,
and Murray River history.Cornelius Van Ewyk

Anonymous on Wed, 11/27/2013 - 20:29

I disagree with you Cornelius we dont need to say the village is a retierment place its the younger people who is needed around here and restoreing that old station will not work
And why u all for this now when the buidings were coming down u were saying the station should come down also
1 more thing all of the council needs to give thier heads a shake and see what garnet buell is doing and trying to do its all about him and his face in the papers and on the news

Anonymous on Thu, 11/28/2013 - 19:38

I totally agree with these comments. It is pretty bad when our own council member will not clean up his own property and keep the grass cut. yet every time there is a face to be seen in the paper or on the news who's got his mug there. Time for Murray River to clean up their council and get some new faces in there. As for the train station get Garnet out of the picture and you might get some support, I for one will not have anything to do with it as long as Garnet is running the show!

view counter
view counter