Amherst Island was always the low lump of land that blocked the view over Lake Ontario as we drove The Loyalist Parkway from Kingston to the Glenora ferry
; there was never a particular reason to go there. But in July 2016 we finally decided to head over for a casual afternoon of biking.
We joined the queue early at the Millhaven dock and were dwarfed by three large dump trucks full of gravel, owned by Wemp and Smith, the contractor who had built our own house two years earlier.
When the ferry docked we were surprised that, although it had end-loading ramps which would allow quick loading, it moored beside the dock and lowered the side ramp. Each vehicle had to drive on, reverse and be directed by a crew member. It didn't make sense then, but a little research found the docks were designed for side loading, and there is a project just under way to rebuild the docks to suit end-loading, with completion due in 2019.
They squeezed the smaller vehicles at each end of the boat, and then managed to get the three large dump trucks in the middle in a fan shape from the side ramp.
On arrival at Stella we turned left to do a clockwise loop of the island. Though Stella is the largest of two hamlets on the island it still rates just a few houses and a couple of businesses – the population of the whole island is just 450. But it is home to
, calling itself "The smallest radio station in Canada".
The island is mainly farmland, with a sprinkling of waterfront homes. The eastern tip has good views back to Kingston. The land on the tip itself is a nature reserve, with unfriendly signs to keep out casual visitors.
Around the island small signs were nailed to many fence posts and trees when we visited, protesting plans to build a wind turbine farm. Much as I believe in the need to develop alternative energy generation, having seen how nearby Wolfe Island is overwhelmed by wind turbines I can fully understand the feelings of the Amherst residents on aesthetic reasons alone. And there are many other very real reasons a small community like this would feel upset at what is happening to them.
So we drove around, but nothing inspired us to get on our bikes, and when it started raining we gave up and headed home. Going back, the ferry had 5 pickup trucks and a trailer from Wemp and Smith—the work crew going home for the day. It's a nice quite place to live or have a summer cottage, but the cost of getting materials and manpower to the island to build a house must be very high.
I returned in February when the lake was semi-covered in broken ice. The ferry had little trouble with this ice, but it must be more problematic in winters when the lake freezes fully. Again there were three large dump trucks, but this time belonging to Lennox and Addington County and full of road aggregate. I didn't cross this time but as I looked over at the island I could see the crane and piling work on the shore where they were already building the docks for the barges to be used in the construction of the wind turbine farm.