In 1997, Route 16 was rerouted across a string of islands and marshes to complete the new fixed link connection between mainland Atlantic Canada and Prince Edward Island. Most travelers are unaware that in the last few kilometers approaching the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick, they are crossing the Cape Jourimain National Wildlife Area. Designated for protection in 1980 by the Canadian Wildlife Service this 675 hectare site contains a complex legacy of natural and human history. The Cape Jourimain Nature Centre located at the base of the Confederation Bridge was created by a local not-for-profit corporation to tell this story and provide controlled public access to a vast wonderful national wildlife area. The Centre also plays an important role in the local economy, providing jobs and generating tourism business for the neighboring communities. These communities have been hit by hard economic times with declines in the fisheries and closure of the Cape Tormentine-Borden ferry service.
A Brief Recent History of Cape Jourimain
- 1932 - The New Brunswick government purchases farms on Jourimain and Trenholm Island so that access roads to the islands would not have to be maintained. Maintaining access was increasingly difficult because of rising water levels and a series of severe winter storms.
- 1966 - A causeway is built from the mainland across Trenholm Island and Jourimain Island with the intent of continuing a fixed link across to PEI. The causeway severed two large salt marshes and created brackish ponds that became "hotspots" for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.
- 1970 - The Cape Jourimain Lighthouse is automated and the era of resident light keepers and permanent occupation of the island ends.
- 1980 - Jourimain Island, Trenholm Island, a portion of the mainland and the marshes in between are gazetted into the Cape Jourimain National Wildlife Area. A right of way along the causeway through the middle of the wildlife area remains under the control of the Department of Public Works and outside of the protected wildlife area.
- 1987 - The Government of Canada issues a call for proposals to the private sector for a fixed link to join PEI with the mainland. After a long process Straight Crossing Development Inc. was named as the developer charged with designing, building, financing and operating the Confederation Bridge. Engineering and environmental planning for the bridge begins.
- 1993 - Construction on the bridge begins and discussions about the development of an ecotourism facility in the vicinity of Cape Jourimain are initiated.
- 1997 - The bridge opens and Cape Jourimain Nature Centre Inc. becomes an officially registered charitable organization. The end of ferry service in Cape Tormentine means the Cape Jourimain Lighthouse is no longer needed and it is decommissioned.
- 2001 - Cape Jourimain Nature Centre open's its doors to the public.