Travel

The bear patrol

JOHN GEDDES July 6 1998
Travel

The bear patrol

JOHN GEDDES July 6 1998

Backyard business

Nancy Sears grew up in St. Martins, N.B., on the doorstep of one of Canada’s natural wonders. The village of 450 is literally at the end of the road: the 40 km separating the community from Fundy National Park marks the last stretch of undeveloped shoreline along the eastern seaboard and affords stunning views of 300-m fjords, the highest tides in the world and frolicking porpoises. So while Sears pursued a number of careers—stints as a day care worker, an occupational therapist and a graphic designer—her abiding passion was to explore the virgin territory around her. But it wasn’t until a friend opened a country inn at St. Martins in 1990 and asked Sears to serve as a hiking guide, that the mother of three realized her hobby could also be her vocation. She recalls: "My reaction was, ‘People pay you for that? To go for a walk in the woods?”’ No longer. Over the past eight years, Sears has built a thriving

business, Fundy Hiking and Nature Tours Inc., by giving visitors—mostly from the United States and Britain—a glimpse of her backyard. The company offers hiking, naturalist and birding expeditions, lasting from five to 17 days, that combine breathtaking scenery with insights into the area’s human history, geology, flora and fauna, and wildlife. While some of the tours include excursions into Quebec and Cape Breton Island, the focus remains on the Bay of Fundy and its sculpted coastline, forged over centuries by enormous tides that can run as high as a four-storey building.

Sears’s customers fit the ecotourism template: she counts doctors, judges and even the odd rocket scientist among her clientele. Many, says Sears, are highpowered individuals looking for a vacation from being in control. "I had a sur-

Sears is an outspoken advocate of ecotourism, seeing it as an environmentally friendly way of generating much-needed jobs and revenue for small rural communities. But she fears the pressure to open up wilderness areas will destroy the very resources that entice the ecotourist. She points with particular alarm to construction already under way on a multi-purpose trail and paved parkway linking St. Martins to Fundy National Park. “This is exactly the sort of thing my customers do not want to see,” she says. “Governments have to decide what kind of tourism they want. Will it be quality or quantity? We have a choice to make, and we better make it soon.”

being a surgeon who would never step on the rock I suggested,” recalls Sears. “He’d step on his own, slip and fall. Finally, I told him, ‘When I am in your operating room, I will not tell you what to do. You are in my operating room—do as I say.’ He looked at me with great relief and said, ‘Thank you for putting me in my place.’ "

BRIAN BERGMAN