“Holyrood is not a mythical place to battle Bluefin tuna. Neither is Holyrood a telegraph station, a refinery – or a power plant.” says the Town’s CAO, Gary Corbett as he gives a tour of the municipality’s new headquarters. “While each of those were important aspects of our economy and heritage, Holyrood is first and foremost a community: a picturesque, vibrant and forward-looking community.”
Located at the head of Conception Bay, the Town of Holyrood, or “Holly Rode” as it appeared on John Thorton’s map of 1675, has always had a strong connection to the ocean and been a thriving service centre. From providing bait and ice to the Grand Bank schooners, to modern day amenities, the Town continues to be a welcoming and hospitable place to live, learn, work, and play.
Nestled among rolling green hills, cascading rivers, and with a deep, sheltered harbour on its doorstep, Holyrood attracts sightseers, hikers, golfers, scuba divers, and marine enthusiasts alike. During the summer, Holyrood harbour is usually teeming with yachts and powerboats taking advantage of the Town’s marina for docking and servicing watercraft.
With so much emphasis placed on outdoor activities and healthy lifestyle, the Town is experiencing rapid growth as families are looking for a clean, rural, safe and active community to call home. Tourism and recreation is a big part of Holyrood’s allure. Steve Martin, the Town’s Recreation Director explains, “Holyrood was traditionally the destination of choice for well-heeled tourists from St. John’s, especially when the trains were running through here. Now, with the ongoing development of the harbour boardwalk, our hiking trail system, Holy Cross Park and the successes of SquidFest and Crystal Carnival, there’s a lot of momentum.”
“Holyrood’s centralized location between Newfoundland & Labrador’s capital city of St. John’s and major industrial projects like Bull Arm and Long Harbour, positions it well as a commercial service hub and residential base for the Northeast Avalon” says Marjorie Gibbons, Holyrood’s Economic Development Officer.
Education plays a major role in the Holyrood success story. The Operating Engineers and International Boilermakers have had training facilities in the town for a number of years. More recently, Holyrood has become the site for the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland (MI)’s Holyrood Marine Base (HMB). It was built in 2010 and is the first phase of a multi-generational expansion strategy for the Town.
Glenn Blackwood, Vice-President of Memorial University (Marine Institute) says plans to construct a new breakwater, wharf, and a 40,000 square foot research building in the Town are already well underway. “We currently house our Centre for Applied Ocean Technology (CTec) at our Holyrood Marine Base and as such, these facilities are a major part of the Marine Institute’s on-water assets. We are also directing more of our safety and survival training there and are looking to expand our footprint in the town over the next 5-10 years. The Town has been incredibly supportive, has a strong focus on the ocean sector and is a pleasure to work with.”
Barry Snow, a member of the Oceans Holyrood Initiative (OHI) Advisory Board, says the Town is ready to capitalize on its oceans and terrestrial assets and become a Community of Practice for applied, cold oceans technology. “There are tremendous opportunities for the growth of oceans research, education, industry and tourism in the region,” says Snow.
Another big checkmark on the Town’s to-do list was the divestiture, reclamation and cleanup of one of the last relics of the Smallwood era: the infamous Superior Rubber Plant. “That property certainly became an inhibitor to development as it was essentially situated on the corner of Main and Main” says Mayor Gary Goobie. “So now we have the unique opportunity to actually plan and develop a Town Centre. We’re starting with a clean slate and there’s quite a bit of interest from developers as this area is opening up.”
Removal of the derelict building is progressing and the developer is eager to get started on the new structure this spring. Gary Stafford, President of Marina Shores Development says in his experience, Town staff and Council are very business-friendly. “We’ve been able to work together and make this possible. It’s going to be very attractive, convenient and comfortable for the citizens and visitors to Holyrood.”
That sentiment was echoed by Jeff Tilley, Distribution Manager, Atlantic for Valero (formerly Ultramar), a company that has had a presence in the town since 1955. “This organization has always had a great relationship with the Town, and we look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”
Schlumberger, one of the world’s largest conglomerates, has recently moved into the Town’s Industrial Park and it is anticipated that their interest in Holyrood is a bellwether for more things to come from offshore oil activity.
All this bodes well for the Town’s plans and long-term aspirations. “We have a rich history and pride of place and Holyrood has a brilliant future”, says Corbett. He hopes the new brand and tagline – “Come Ashore” – is taken as an invitation to businesses, entrepreneurs, researchers, teachers and students to participate in the town’s re-visioning and growth. “In Holyrood, like most Newfoundland and Labrador communities, historically we’ve had to cooperate and adapt. It’s in our DNA.”