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Stan Rogers turned a stretch of Nova Scotia coastline into one of the most storied sites in Canadian music history. Today, the land he loved is slated to be turned into a granite quarry, bringing desperately needed jobs to the region. Josh O'Kane reports on a uniquely maritime clash between cultural preservation and economic development

A boat idles in Fogarty’s Cove on the Nova Scotia coast.

A boat idles in Fogarty’s Cove on the Nova Scotia coast.

Photography by Darren Calabrese for The Globe and Mail

This story was originally published April 15, 2016.

As kids, Stan Rogers and his younger brother, Garnet, used to hike along the Chedabucto Bay coast, imagining themselves as Canada's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. They'd trek westward from the fishing town of Canso. The most obvious route would have been through the woods above the shore, where they would have had the chance to take in the untouched nature – deer, ducks, ponds, bogs, even enormous mink frogs. But it was easier to head along the water, avoiding the rocky terrain and thick brush above. "You could only do it at low tide," says Garnet, who's now 60. "If you got caught when the tide was coming in, you were in deep trouble."

Stan Rogers lived most of his life in Southern Ontario, but many of his fondest memories were here, on the easternmost tip of mainland Nova Scotia. The folk-songwriter's family, scattered across Canso and neighbouring villages, has deep roots here. Stan wished the place was home too, but he never got the chance to plant local roots of his own. He died at 33, at the height of his career, in a 1983 airplane fire.

Stan Rogers at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1980.

Stan Rogers at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1980.


Seven or eight miles into their hikes, Stan and Garnet would hit a cove belonging, unbeknownst to them, to a family by the name of Fogarty. "It's a lovely part of the world," Garnet says. "The most spectacular scenery, and, up until now, pretty much unspoiled." As a young man, Stan, not realizing it was an actual place he'd been to, wrote a song, then an album, named Fogarty's Cove. Released in 1977, the album was the bald, bearded baritone's breakthrough, pushing him from relative unknown to, in Pete Seeger's words, one of the "most talented singers and songwriters in North America."

The song Fogarty's Cove embraces a triple-barrelled narrative common in Maritime lyricism: love for your home, pride in your work and the knife-twisting need to ship away to keep working. The album is steeped in Canso tales both true and tall. While Rogers later put out records about other parts of Canada, his Maritime identity clung. The record helped birth an East Coast twist on Celtic and British traditional music and a market for modern originals, paving the way for the likes of the Rankin Family and Great Big Sea. "He's an underheralded hero of Canadian song," Great Big Sea's Alan Doyle says. "Almost every walk of life, every backyard in Canada, is described in one way or another in a Stan Rogers song."

The woods around Fogarty's Cove, meanwhile, have seen more traffic in the past decade than they have since the Second World War. Trucks have been pulling into an access road about 10 minutes west of Canso, and their passengers, strapped into hiking boots, have been heading north toward the coast. It's a steep climb, first through forest and across a stream, then up a brush-coated stretch of granite. When these new visitors crest, a couple of kilometres in, they find the soil deepens, bringing with it a mass of spruce and fir so thick they'd best have a machete to power through. If they keep marching, veering westward, and hit the water in the right spot, they find themselves at Fogarty's Head, a rocky outcrop named after the family that signed a grant for the land in 1858. And if they hook left, westward, a cobble-beach cove comes into view. There it is.

Fogarty's Cove, the song, was a metaphor for the tragedy of leaving home to get good work. Fogarty's Cove, the place, was expropriated from its namesake family estate in 2013. In a cruel East Coast irony, the local government plans to turn one of the most quietly understated landmarks in Canadian cultural history into a quarry, to bring the shrinking region jobs it desperately needs.

June Jarvis prepares a lunch of soft-boiled eggs with tea at her Canso home.

June Jarvis prepares a lunch of soft-boiled eggs with tea at her Canso home.

'I've got a new song to try out on you!'

Stan and Garnet Rogers grew up in Ontario, near Hamilton, but their mother Valerie Rogers, née Bushell, had come from a large family in the Canso area. She'd bring the boys home for long trips every couple of years, leaving them with her sister June whenever she'd go out with friends. June Jarvis remained close to Stan for all of his life; their friendship, along with music, was one of the constants of his 33 years on this Earth. Well before he ever picked up a guitar, he'd turn the details of life into song, singing even before he fully grasped how to talk. June fondly recalls a song he made up in the back seat on the way to a beach they called Tittle: "We are going / Down Tittle / In Daddy's car / To have a fwim."

A guitar and piano inside June Jarvis’s home. She remained close with Stan Rogers throughout his life.

Back then, nearly everyone around Canso was a musician. All of Garnet and Stan's aunts and uncles here played instruments; some made their own guitars. "There were massive parties what seemed like every night," says Garnet, who played in Stan's band as a young man, and is a Juno-nominated artist in his own right. Even June, who preferred writing as her creative outlet, could be convinced to yodel if the night stretched late enough. The songs told the stories of their lives, of Canso's roughness and its poor economy, but playing them brought everyone together. "Everyone would bring in guitars, fiddles and accordions," Garnet says. "It was what we did for fun."

Stan was exposed to all of this growing up, but only irregularly. He didn't spend much time here until his 20s, after floating in and out of university. Inspired by Ontario's coffee-house scene, he'd been thinking of becoming a serious folk musician. Before his song Northwest Passage became an unofficial national anthem, before poet Al Purdy named his 1993 autobiography, Reaching for the Beaufort Sea, after a line from that song, and before Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary called Stan "an extraordinary talent, the likes of which we haven't seen since Bob Dylan," he found inspiration in and around Canso.

He began staying at a nearby family cottage to force himself to write. He had a habit of rolling up to June's house when he was done, bursting through the door with an announcement: "I've got a new song to try out on you!"

On one such occasion, he showed up to her kitchen with a look of frustration. He had writer's block.

"Do you have any ideas for what I might write about?"

His aunt barely paused. "Why don't you write about the people and the stories around here?"

Raw granite in Fogarty’s Cove. The planned quarry project would supply road material from Virginia to Florida.

Raw granite in Fogarty’s Cove. The planned quarry project would supply road material across the southeastern United States.

'The major bleeding, outmigration, has happened'

Nova Scotia's soul is steeped in music, but its shores are shorn with granite. The province's rocky, surf-splashed coast is even celebrated on its official tartan – a thin white line cutting through gold, blue, red and green. The land above Fogarty's Cove is a single "pluton," a massive granite rock that is remarkably consistent. It's rough, and doesn't wear down easily over time, which is the kind of surface you want your tires on when braking. This, the local municipality insists, is pure opportunity: What's the sense in keeping that rock in the ground when they can profit from putting it in roads abroad?



Behind its namesake cove, the Fogarty family once owned about 40 hectares, but the proposed Black Point Quarry would swallow all of it and more, at 180 hectares. The entire site would be double that size. Over as many as 50 years, developer Vulcan Materials Co. wants to blast and chop up to 400 million tonnes of its granite to ship down the Atlantic coast, where it would be used in roads from Virginia to Florida.


If the project meets environmental and corporate approvals, construction could begin as early as 2018, bringing with it an anticipated capital investment of $80-million to $100-million (U.S.) and as many as 150 direct and indirect jobs. At peak production, maybe a decade later, the quarry could be home to 60 full-time workers, most of whom Vulcan says will be hired locally.

Sixty doesn't seem like many jobs, but if Canso were still a town, that would employ one in every dozen people. Canso's tax base shrank so much in the past two decades that expenses far outstripped revenue, and in 2012 its residents voted to amalgamate with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, which now governs most of Guysborough County.

Stan Rogers romanticized the place, yes, but he openly sang about how life here's never been easy. Since Canso was settled in 1604, fishing has been the main industry; other than forestry, there's never been much other choice. At three hours from Halifax, it's too isolated to lure significant manufacturing, and people can't farm much because glaciers pushed all the good soil into the ocean thousands of years ago.

After the cod-centric ground fishery crashed in the early nineties, it's been a struggle to keep operating the fish plants that were once Canso's economic backbone. The population shrank from 1,228 in 1991 to 806 in 2011, just before the town dissolved. There is still a small fishing industry, but jobs remain scarce: "If we could get 10 of them back, 20 of them back, whatever the number is, it's well worth it," says Eugene O'Leary, president of the local inshore fishermen's association.

Driving around Canso, Ray White, a long-time mayor, says the Black Point Quarry proposal has brought back some optimism. "The major bleeding, outmigration, has happened," he says as his truck crests a hill overlooking Canso's cracked streets, shingle-sided homes and lobster-trap piles. "If we get additional families here, it'll stabilize and strengthen services we already have. Not everybody's gonna live in this immediate area, but if they do, it'll certainly have an impact."

The Queensport Lighthouse on Rooks Island in Chedabucto Bay, NS on Saturday, April 2, The Queensport Lighthouse on Rooks Island. The lighthouse gets name-dropped in the first line of Stan Rogers’s song: ‘We just lost sight of the Queensport light down the bay before us.’

The Queensport Lighthouse on Rook Island. The lighthouse gets name-dropped in the first line of Stan Rogers’s song: ‘We just lost sight of the Queensport light down the bay before us.’

'He'd absorb these stories in that huge brain of his'

Since seeing Bob Dylan play Toronto's Massey Hall as a teenager, Stan Rogers had been fascinated by the authority traditional music could carry – because, his brother Garnet says, "it sounded like an old song already." His Aunt June's offhand suggestion to write about Canso gave Stan the inspiration to command his own authority. He soon trudged back to her kitchen with The Jeannie C. and Make and Break Harbour, both of which pointed out just how precarious life – and making a living – can be on a Canso fishing boat.

Stan penned another tune, too, called Fogarty's Cove, about a fisherman coming home, if only for a minute, before heading back out to sea. He picked the name not because of some cherished childhood hiking memory, though – it just had a nice rhythm to it. And the song makes no geographical sense. "If you talk to a lobsterman who's taken his boat on the Chedabucto Bay and run the lyrics by him," Garnet says, "he'll tell you the boat's just going in circles."

Fisherman Jerry Creamer’s dog Sarge looks for mackerel while leaving Fogarty’s Cove.

Fisherman Jerry Creamer’s dog Sarge looks for mackerel while leaving Fogarty’s Cove.

Fog rolls over the trees on Lazy Head cape in Chedabucto Bay. Lazy Head is mentioned in the lyrics to Fogarty’s Cove.

Fog rolls over the trees on Lazy Head cape in Chedabucto Bay. Lazy Head is mentioned in the lyrics to Fogarty’s Cove.

But it was talking to locals like those lobstermen that enriched Stan's songs. "He was like a sponge," says Paul Mills, who produced Fogarty's Cove and most of Stan's other records. "He talked to people all the time, and he solicited their stories. He'd absorb these stories in that huge brain of his, and eventually a song would come out."

And his signature sound, bound in Celtic-laced traditional style, opened the world's ears to Atlantic-Canadian musicians such as Rita MacNeil and the Rankin Family, says Elaine Keillor, author of Music in Canada: Capturing Landscape and Diversity. "Even before he passed on, we started to see singers coming out of the Maritimes who were really putting their own experiences into song, rather than singing the old traditional songs," she says.

Tom Power, host of CBC Radio's Deep Roots, says Rogers "had a rare ability as a songwriter, which almost no one does, to paint the place as it actually was." As an outsider, Stan offered Maritimers a challenge with Fogarty's Cove, Power says: "'This guy's not even from here and he's writing better traditional songs than we ever could. Let's see what we can do about that.'"

But nowhere does Stan's legacy endure more than in Canso: The annual Stan Rogers Folk Festival draws in thousands of visitors annually and injects $1.6-million into the local economy. When it launched in 1996, former mayor White fielded endless frustrated calls from tourists. "The most common call was, 'Where the hell is Canso?'" Now, he says, "They don't ask that any more."

Sunday traffic on Union Street in Canso. The town is home to an annual folk festival in Stan Rogers’ name.

Sunday traffic on Union Street in Canso. The town is home to an annual folk festival in Stan Rogers’ name.

'The first ones to leave are your young people'

Putting Canso on the map hasn't erased its economic and employment problems. Across Guysborough County, people are looking for work, a way out, or both. Rogers hinted at this in one of his earliest songs, 1973's Guysborough Train: "The North Shore's begun, the man I've become / in rags, on the Guysborough train." Unemployment across eastern Nova Scotia hovers around 15 per cent to 16 per cent, more than double the Canadian average.

"When you don't have employment opportunities, the first ones to leave are your younger people," says Gordon MacDonald, the Guysborough municipality's director of economic development. The desk he works at is decked in Yankees gear, the stuff of big-city, free-spending ambitions; but across his office, the window opens up to his reality: an empty Guysborough street. "It was raised for years that we should promote the area as a retirement community," MacDonald says. "But that's what we are."

Old boats on shore near the wharf at Fisherman’s Market in Canso, N.S.

Old boats on shore near the wharf at Fisherman’s Market in Canso, N.S.

The region has spent the past few decades trying to diversify its economy and bring in jobs with wind projects, oil and gas (remember Sable Island?) and other natural-resource developments. The now-defunct Guysborough County Regional Development Authority used to regularly work with the provincial government to find fresh geological formations worth developing. MacDonald, who then worked for the authority, says granite at Black Point, on Crown land west of Canso, caught their eye "in the late nineties."

It wasn't until 2006 that they started seriously prying around the site, soon deciding to finance a drilling program to assess Black Point's potential. In November, 2007, a contractor began probing the Crown land. It was a rough go. Crews had to drag equipment through snow and uncut trails. And when they finished, they emerged from the woods into the recession, putting a damper on demand for the road materials they hoped to extract.

While Guysborough waited for the market to improve, test reports came back: The Black Point pluton's granite would make perfect construction aggregate, ripe for roads. So the municipality and its development partners started shopping for a full-time developer. And they negotiated a land swap with the province, trading some nearby property for the Black Point Crown land, to lease for a quarry. There was one problem: Some of the pluton was privately owned.

On one plot of land, belonging to a family named Lukeman, officials were able to strike a deal with a handful of heirs. But the land west of there belonged to the estate of Joseph Fogarty – who had, by the municipality's count, more than 150 descendants.

Brothers Brian left, and Frank Fogarty stand along the Halifax Harbour.

Brothers Brian left, and Frank Fogarty on the Halifax Harbour.

'There's so much money involved in this'

It'd be a stretch to call Brian and Frank Fogarty broken men on a Halifax pier, but they're certainly frustrated men on the Halifax waterfront. In the boardroom of Frank's fibre-optic cable depot near the MacKay Bridge, they'll spread out hundreds of pages of documents to make their case to anyone who'll listen. Brian, 65, is bald, gruff and tends to speak over his redheaded, soft-spoken 61-year-old brother. "There's so much money involved in this," Brian says. "They don't want little guys like me and Frank getting in their way."

At Christmas in 2013, the Fogarty brothers ran into their cousin Jim. He was despondent. Jim Fogarty was the guardian of the family's long-owned land near Black Point; since 2002, he'd proudly paid the taxes on it, though it still technically belonged to the estate of his great-grandfather Joseph, who had died a century earlier. In October, 2013, though, Jim had gotten a letter from the Guysborough municipality, inviting him to a council meeting the following week to make a case against expropriating the land.

Jim had been contacted about expropriation before, but declined to respond. Instead, he sent Guysborough a letter saying he wanted the land to go to tax sale, to put the deed in his name and make his life simpler. He also asked about the potential for expropriation, and for a written response. But he got no letter from the municipality in return – until the council meeting invitation nearly a year later. And after driving 2 1/2 hours from Cape Breton to make his case, he watched the council, with two lightning-quick votes, legally wrest away land that had been in the Fogarty name for 155 years. In exchange, dozens of Joseph Fogarty's heirs became eligible to split $140,000 for a site that could be developed for many, many millions.

When Jim told this to Brian and Frank, they were floored. Like the musician who wrote an unintentional anthem for the place, the brothers grew up far from Fogarty's Cove, but remained connected to the land through deep family roots. William Timothy Fogarty and his wife had settled there after arriving on a schooner from Tipperary, Ireland, in 1820. In 1858, his son, Michael Fogerty – there were a few spelling changes over the years – signed a grant with the province for a 100-acre slice of land. Much of the property was too barren to live off, but Fogarty men spent decades living near and fishing off a little cobble-beach cove on the property's northwest corner.

During the Second World War, Brian and Frank's grandfather, Michael Vincent Fogarty, moved to Hazel Hill, next to Canso, unable to subsist on fishing after his elder sons enlisted. Brian and Frank had visited the property as kids, but what they remember more than the place is how passionate their aunts and uncles were about it. "The one thing they always talked about was when they were living on Black Point and fishing with my grandfather," Brian says, some ancestral Irish lilt still flavouring his voice. "It was a big, big, big part of their history."

Frank Fogarty organizes documents in the boardroom of his Halifax office.

Frank Fogarty organizes documents in the boardroom of his Halifax office.

How, the brothers wondered, could the municipality just take their land? That, Brian Fogarty says, is "blatant disrespect" to his forefathers who worked, lived and played there. It left a bad taste in Frank's mouth, too: "They've taken the land from us, and they're using it to earn money from a quarry."

Jim was furious, but exhausted. He washed his hands of the whole thing. Brian and Frank, though – they decided to be figureheads for the cause. Not just of the expropriation, but of what they believe was a process done away from the public eye without considering other economy-boosting options.

There's an inherent NIMBYism to their fight – "I know there's a need for quarries, but in the right place," Brian says – but they see their cause as noble. They want to preserve their family history, sure, but they want the land protected for the public's enjoyment. After all, even the official Guysborough website boasts about the municipality's natural beauty – and calls it " unspoiled."

Runoff from snow and ice melts into Chedabucto Bay in Fogarty’s Cove on the Nova Scotia coast.

Runoff from snow and ice melts into Chedabucto Bay at Fogarty’s Cove on the Nova Scotia coast.

'I guess it's seen the last of us'

It wasn't hard for the Fogarty brothers to be skeptical of the quarry plan. For starters, it's already changed hands twice. Nova Scotia-based Erdene Resource Development Corp., which helped Guysborough with early-stage exploration and consultations, handed it over to spinoff company Morien Resources Corp. Morien soon turned around and signed an agreement to have Alabama's Vulcan Materials Co., the United States' largest construction aggregate producer, take over the day-to-day in exchange for $1.8-million and a royalty stream for the life of the quarry. Many of the people contacted for this story were suspicious at how suddenly the project fell into American hands, though the municipality of Guysborough will still receive royalties and lease income, which it started the project for in the first place.

One of Brian and Frank's first stops was to meet with Vulcan staff, who held a community meeting in April, 2014, near Black Point. It was at that meeting that the brothers insist Frank Lieth, Vulcan's now-vice-president of geological services, told them the company did an archeological study on the land and found no one had ever lived there.

Lieth can't recall the conversation, but he does know the study they refer to – a preliminary study. Archeologists had only explored the high-up barren granite lands, versus the more habitat-friendly waterfront, because that's all they had time for. In 2014, Vulcan commissioned a more extensive study, and found six probable house foundations, including one on the former Fogarty land. Archeological consultants have recommended 100-metre buffers and will likely suggest more thorough digs, and Lieth, in an interview, said Vulcan plans to wait for those results before breaking ground.

But the conversation set something off in Brian. He felt disrespected; he and Frank had played on those foundations as kids. So they started a crusade, setting out to find anything they can to get Fogarty's Cove in Fogarty hands again. Over the past two years, he and Frank have scoured the provincial archives and courts, combed through bylaws, worked with Halifax's Chronicle Herald, and even tried to commission their own archeological survey (only to be stonewalled – because the property was now the government's).

The Fogarty brothers stumbled across surprises that made them both curious and furious. There were small surprises, like in Guysborough's municipal planning strategy, which had recently been updated to include two coincidental back-to-back goals: to develop more natural resources and to "take advantage" of private land "held for generations without … being made available for development." And there were big surprises, like the time on CBC Radio in 2015 that Guysborough warden Vernon Pitts said that "to the best of our knowledge, there's never been dwellings or families living there," in spite of the archeological reports that indicated otherwise.

With each discovery, Brian and Frank think they've gotten closer to blocking the project. But they sometimes fling suspicions like spaghetti at a wall: They're skeptical of royalty flows, public awareness, even drilling tests near the borders of the former Fogarty lands. And many of these suspicions circle around a coincidence or minor slip-up, or come with a set of he-said-she-said complications. None of them, so far, will put the Fogarty name back on the deed for Fogarty's Cove.

One of the more awkward points in Brian and Frank's fight lies in the original land grant, signed on behalf of Queen Victoria. The brothers like to point out that it says the land is their family's "forever." And it says that. But it also grants the government the right to mines of virtually any mineral and rock beneath the ground.

The brothers have limited options. Expropriations and land deals happen all the time, whenever someone's property gets in the way of a tax-boosting development. For past projects, Guysborough has had to force people out of their homes. But no one has lived on or near Fogarty's Cove since at least the Second World War. Municipal officials say they sought to make a fair deal, but that the number of heirs made that impossible, forcing them to hire a law firm to split the $140,000 value they've assessed for the land.

Next they have to divide it among the heirs. A handful of relatives have come forward for a chunk of the cash. But not Brian or Frank.

Fogarty's Cove, the album, closes with a character named Tom Finch leaving the Canso region behind after government decisions shutter the plant where he works. "We Finches have been in this part of the world for near 200 years," he says, "but I guess it's seen the last of us." Unlike Finch, the Fogarty brothers refuse to give in to government whims. They'll fight tooth and nail to preserve their two centuries of family history at the real Fogarty's Cove.

And one man, says Frank, gives their story some hope: Stan Rogers. "He got the name to stick."

Fog rolls in over a wharf in Canso.

Fog rolls in over a wharf in Canso.

'They're making the rules and then get to referee'

The Fogarty's Cove that Stan Rogers sang about was story-enhancing fiction, but the real cove had exactly the kind of untouched beauty that kept him coming back to the region. Before bureaucrats, drillers, consultants and quarry companies started floating through the Black Point lands, the worst problem the site had was damage from all-terrain vehicles rumbling through, leaving a drained bog and crushed beer cans in their wake.

One of the best ways for the public to challenge a project like the Black Point Quarry is on the ecological front. It's subject to joint approval from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Nova Scotia's Department of Environment. Quarries are not tidy operations. Companies have refined drilling, blasting and excavating techniques, but at the end of the day, they still have to drill, blast and excavate. It's an inherently disruptive business; if the project does deliver the Canso area 60 long-term jobs, it could look like a remarkably different place by the time it's decommissioned and rehabilitated, which could be in 2070 or later.

Frank and Brian Fogarty have delighted in challenging the various rounds of documentation and draft reports that the governments require, knowing it's the most likely chance to slow or stop the quarry. But the likelihood of that is rapidly shrinking. The Black Point Quarry's Draft Environmental Assessment Report says the project is "not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, taking into account the implementation of the recommended mitigation measures."

The public was invited to comment on the report until early February. The assessment bodies have until April 28 to review those comments, meaning, as of publication time, the project could be approved at any moment.

Until then, the Fogarty brothers are hanging hope on a key feature in the draft report: its proposed lack of third-party oversight. They filed comments lamenting the developer's freedom to use the "honour system" the report offers Vulcan, granting the company the freedom to monitor and mitigate the environmental impacts of its own quarry, for things such as erosion, surface-water quality and effects on cultural heritage.

The Sierra Club joined the Fogarty brothers in commenting on the draft. Atlantic chapter director Gretchen Fitzgerald feels that the process so far has prevented the public from sufficiently evaluating Vulcan's compensation and mitigation plans. As it stands, "They're making the rules and then get to referee," she says. (In documents and interviews, Vulcan officials have promised to follow the letter of the law and do everything they can to monitor for and mitigate ecological damage.)

Environmental self-monitoring, common for projects such as this, often forces the public to trust a company to handle its own problems. That trust isn't exactly high among those who've studied the Black Point Quarry plan. The Fogarty brothers are concerned that family grave sites and artifacts may be lost to the quarry, and insist that they have a representative present for the excavation of potential heritage sites. Some locals worry that noise could disrupt the quarry's neighbours for decades. Others are concerned that wetlands could be damaged, trickling trouble through the whole Canso Peninsula. And officials from Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn, a Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq rights organization, still have unaddressed concerns about how the project will affect fish habitats.

The Chedabucto Bay side would be even more at risk of water disturbances from silt or fuel leaks, and the increase in shipping traffic as a result of the quarry could pose a risk to inshore fishermen. In interviews, both Vulcan and the municipality were eager to bring up a letter the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen's Association signed in support of the quarry. To project proponents, it's evidence that they've won over an industry that could feel deeply affected by the quarry.

In a sense, that's true: They've worked with the association to modify their plans and shipping routes to avoid traps and reduce harm to marine habitats. But the fishermen's support is actually tentative. Companies have always come and gone from the Canso area; they've learned not to trust the benevolence of industry. "We're skeptical until we see that they actually carry out the plan that's been relayed to us," says Ginny Boudreau, the association's manager.

This is not the only case where the Black Point Quarry's biggest supporters have been selective in describing public support.

Fishing nets in Philips Harbour. Fish plants were once the Canso region’s big moneymaker, until the fishery crashed in the 1990s.

Fishing nets in Philips Harbour. Fish plants were once the Canso region’s big moneymaker, until the fishery crashed in the 1990s.

'A truly vulnerable community'

Sierra Club officials think there's an ethical dimension to the Black Point Quarry that's not being discussed enough: Dangling economic benefits in front of an already hard-off community, they suggest, is unfair. "They've picked a truly vulnerable community and they've promised things that vulnerable populations accept at face value," says Kelly Schnare, a Sierra Club co-ordinator. "I really don't think that it's an appropriate way to do business."

Guysborough's own research gives this theory some weight. In 2014, the municipality conducted a phone survey of 350 people and found that 79 per cent expected the Black Point Quarry to have a "positive impact" on the community. Like the Fishermen's Association letter, Vulcan and Guysborough – the two parties who would likely profit most from the project – like to trot out the poll as a sign of significant public support.

But there is fine print. Less than 20 per cent of those surveyed suggested they were "knowledgeable" about the project. And their efforts to engage locals have been mostly unrequited; only 11 per cent of residents surveyed had actually gone to the most recent major public meeting. "There are high levels of support, but low levels of knowledge about the project," writes the surveyor, MQO Research, "suggesting a risk that opinions could change if new information is presented."

If there truly is a common public opinion about the fate of Fogarty's Cove, even the municipality's own survey suggests it is an uninformed one. When asked about this, economic-development director Gordon MacDonald did not answer directly, acknowledging instead that skepticism or low knowledge is inevitable, especially given the early stage of the project. Like the inshore fishermen's conditional backing, he says, "that support is based on certain assumptions, so [they] want to see the fully developed plan before [they] confirm that support."

Local concerns about preserving the natural environment around Fogarty's Cove, however, have been measured before – by Stan Rogers's cousin, Stephen Bushell. In the early 2000s, fearing that the Crown land around the cove might some day be developed, Bushell helped collect more than 1,000 signatures on a petition to preserve the coastal habitat under Nova Scotia's Wilderness Areas Protection Act.

Opinions can change over time, though. Former Canso mayor Ray White signed the petition all those years ago, but is now firmly in support of the quarry. "When you take each one in isolation, it's contradictory," he says. After hearing what a quarry would bring the community, "The conclusion I came to was that it was a viable project with a positive impact."

Numerous locals The Globe contacted were fearful that speaking out against the quarry might hurt loved ones praying for jobs it would bring. Artist Steven Rhude, a petition organizer who used to live in a cottage facing Black Point, is less deterred. "They're using the jobs-versus-the-environment argument, which is as old as eternity," he says. "There are a lot of other ways to attract people to Guysborough County without blowing the coastline to smithereens."

Glynn Williams has some alternate solutions. Like Stan Rogers, Williams came to the region from away and was captivated. The Bay Street entrepreneur loves Guysborough with all his heart and a good portion of his wallet. He's poured millions into the municipality: He runs a local inn, brought in a successful craft brewery and coffee roastery, restored part of the Guysborough village's main street, and owns a local golf course. He is, in many ways, Guysborough's biggest booster.

Williams was drawn to the region for its natural beauty, but has spent the last few years watching the municipality propose numerous environmentally destructive megaprojects. In a candid letter to The Globe and Mail, he argues that this economic strategy plays the wrong game with the local economy: Governments are striking out trying for home runs when they should be playing small ball.

"What was the total investment to get [permanent jobs] and what is the legacy of that investment?" Williams writes. "Could those jobs have been created with less risk to the environment, the local economy and community in a number of small businesses at a fraction of the cost per job?"

Investing in small business, he writes, may be the key for Guysborough's turnaround. "Creating an ecosystem of low-impact small businesses that are committed to the community … may provide an alternative path, with less environmental impact."

There's an echo of Stan Rogers's story in Williams's: He came to the region from away, he was captivated and he's using the skill he knows best – business investment – to put it on the map. And like Stan, maybe Williams can inspire a newer, home-grown generation to follow his lead.

"A community gains confidence over a period of time when it sees a series of small job wins, as families arrive, kids come for their first day of school and Main Street fills up with new storefronts. It loses confidence when large projects get announced and expectations are not fulfilled."

A weather vane in Canso. Stan Rogers had family scattered across Canso and neighbouring villages.

A weather vane in Canso. Stan Rogers had family scattered across Canso and neighbouring villages.

'It's why we're still sitting here'

Vulcan has high expectations for the Black Point Quarry. The Alabama company was drawn to the project for a number of reasons. "The high-quality granite that's here" is No. 1, says Frank Lieth. We're sitting in DesBarres Manor – the inn owned by Glynn Williams – before Vulcan officials take me on a hike through the property. He keeps on listing: "Chedabucto Bay is ice-free, which would allow us to ship year-round," Lieth says. "The access to deep water adjacent to this high-quality granite is also very critical for this model." Before he finishes, he makes sure to bring up the jobs it will bring in, the numbers memorized from countless community meetings.

If the draft environmental plan is approved as is, it would take a couple of years for construction to begin – but only if Vulcan decides to move ahead. It reserves the right to pull out. It's happened before, next door to Nova Scotia near St. Andrews, N.B., just a few years ago. Lieth even moved there to work on it, only to watch Vulcan pull out of the project.

For all the effort that Vulcan and its predecessors have put into turning the land at Fogarty's Cove into a quarry, they could give up at the drop of a hat.

Guysborough officials, of course, are aware of this possibility. It won't deter them. "The property will be developed," says Barry Carroll, the municipality's chief administrative officer. "When you get an opportunity to put bread on peoples' tables, that has to be the focus for the municipality."

For opponents of the quarry – for Brian and Frank Fogarty – this means Vulcan pulling out would be less a win than the start of a new battle. They could, however, seek a small victory on another front. Nova Scotia's Expropriation Act leaves little room for appeal, but there's legal principle left for the brothers to explore. Coincidentally, it was established by the Supreme Court of Canada in a case on the other side of Guysborough County.

When the causeway to Cape Breton was built half a century ago, a man with nearby property had his land expropriated for the rock beneath it. He was compensated with the market value of the real estate, but appealed his way to Canada's highest court, which ruled that "what is expropriated is really building material rather than land."

It's legally well-established that compensation should be based on market value at the time of expropriation. But the causeway case helped establish that the principle of "special adaptability" expands the definition of what, exactly, the market value is of. It's been successfully used in subsequent cases, including by Stephen Waqué, an authority on Canadian expropriation law. "You balance the extreme interference in their property rights," he says, "by providing them with compensation that recognizes the particular opportunity the municipality is taking advantage of."

Better compensation wouldn't be the same as getting the property back. Nor would it reverse what frustrates Brian and Frank Fogarty the most: that the municipality didn't give their family enough opportunity to build a case against expropriation. So they intend to keep fighting on any front they can find. "It's why we're still sitting here," Frank says.

Their dream for Fogarty's Cove is simple. They want it protected by law so that their family and the public can enjoy its natural peace. And maybe, they've idly wondered, it could host some kind of homage to the man who made it famous. "It really would be nice," Brian says, "to have a tribute to Stan Rogers there."

June Jarvis persuaded her nephew to write about ‘the people and the stories around here.’

June Jarvis persuaded her nephew to write about ‘the people and the stories around here.’

'Greed is driving it, and insensitivity is fuelling it'

June Jarvis has a little cove of her own. Just south of Canso, she and her husband keep a cottage they call Sanddollar, and from the sunroom you can watch the Atlantic roll in a dozen metres away. At 79, she still marches out to the cove to bathe, using dish soap to lather in the salt water, full of life after decades spent caring for others. She abandoned a career as a writer in her 20s to look after aging relatives, kids of her own and later, as a housing-authority manager, her whole community. So even though it was June who convinced her nephew Stan to put Fogarty's Cove on the folk world's mental map, she only ever had the time to hike out there once.

"But it's a beautiful walk," June says, reclining in her chair with blue-framed glasses hanging from her neck, watching sandpipers fly sideways to dodge the pouring rain. "There are a lot of beaches and interesting rock formations, and little freshwater ponds where there are ducks and wild lilies. You never know what you might see." She's got short-cropped white hair, but her sly smile and sharp blue eyes can make you forget she's in retirement, spending as much time as possible in this sunroom with bird-watching books and binoculars. Here, she's at her most peaceful. Except when she talks about the Black Point Quarry.

"It's such an inappropriate use for this land. Greed is driving it, and insensitivity is fuelling it. The people who want to do this don't care about the other aspects of it. All they care about is the granite and getting richer." Much like the Fogarty brothers, she feels like too many of the project's decisions – picking the site, expropriating private land, shifting responsibility to a U.S. company – weren't given fair public scrutiny. And by chopping up the coastline, she says, Guysborough is losing an opportunity to seize the raw beauty that keeps people there in the first place.

In the rural Maritimes, steeped in history but thirsty for economic development, something often has to give for progress to be made. Preserving cultural history can mean turning your back on jobs, just as new jobs can mean shredding oceanfront property to bits. No matter what happens with the Black Point Quarry, someone loses.

After Stan died in a blaze on a Cincinnati tarmac, his wife, Ariel Rogers, grappled with his relatives for the rights to his life's work and control of his record label – named, as it happens, Fogarty's Cove Music. For more than 30 years, she's been in control of his legacy. Even she's not sure what to think about putting a quarry at the actual Fogarty's Cove. "If it's my business at all, it's that I have a fairly strong attachment to people in that area," Ariel says. "If I knew that putting in a quarry there would give them meaningful employment, it'd be pretty hard for me to say, 'I don't think you should do this.'"

For the past few years, people have come to Ariel asking what Stan would think of the quarry. Truthfully, she says, she has no idea. But there may be a few clues in Stan's music – especially the songs of Fogarty's Cove. They put Canso on the map, but they were well aware of how its shortcomings hurt the people who lived there.

"I don't think there's anything strange about the irony in Stan's songs," his Aunt June says, staring out into the Atlantic. "He well understood how our people want to stay here – and how the economy of the place makes it impossible for them to do so."

Josh O'Kane is a reporter with The Globe and Mail and author of Nowhere With You, a book about Joel Plaskett and East Coast songwriting.

Fogarty's Cove, by Stan Rogers

Stan Rogers, Garnet Rogers and Dave Eadie play near Fogarty’s Cove


We just lost sight of the Queensport light down the Bay before us

And the wind has blown some cold today,

With just a wee touch of snow.

Along the shore from Lazy Head, hard a-beam Half Island,

Tonight we let the anchor go, down in Fogarty's Cove

My Sally's like a raven's wing, her hair is like her mother's,

With hands that make quick work of a chore,

And eyes like the top of a stove.

Come suppertime she'll walk the beach wrapped in my old duffle

With her eyes upon the Masthead Reach, down in Fogarty's Cove.

She will walk the sandy shores so plain

Watch the combers roll in,

'Til I come to Wild Rose Chance again,

Down in Fogarty's Cove

She cries when I'm away to sea, nags me when I'm with her;

She'd rather I'd a government job, or maybe go on the dole.

But I love her wave as I put about and nose into the channel.

My Sally keeps a supper and a bed for me down in Fogarty's Cove.

Lyrics reprinted with permission of Ariel Rogers


Joel Plaskett demonstrates his true patriot love through music In an excerpt from his new book Nowhere With You, The Globe’s Josh O’Kane charts the career beginnings of a Halifax troubadour.


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