New outdoor retreat opens for soldiers, first responders

Combat engineers from 5th Division Support Base Gagetown built a hiking trail in 2019 at Camp Cassidy, a new outdoor recreational facility and wellness centre on Cassidy Lake designed for military personnel and first responders and their families.

What began as an idea based on a similar project in Virginia has morphed into a three season outdoor retreat in rural Kings County, N.B.

Paul Cassidy and his sister, Nicola, have spent the past few years developing their non-profit Camp Cassidy on their family’s farmland overlooking Cassidy Lake, in the Norton area, to allow military members and first responders, and their loved ones, to spend time in nature and improve their mental wellness.

The Camp isn’t open for overnight stays at the moment, but Nicola Cassidy said the goal is to eventually build cabins and a gathering place for programs and allow guests to spend the night on land that’s been in her family for more than six generations.

“We’ve based some of our vision on the Boulder Crest Foundation’s retreat centre in Virginia, and we’ve had discussions with them on how they’ve progressed with their camp,” she said.

“We want to capture the flavour and hospitality of the Maritimes, but it’s also geared toward current and former military members and first responders and their families.”

The outdoor recreational facility and wellness centre is based on nature therapy and reserved exclusively for use by members of the military and first responder communities, free of charge.

At present, it includes a hiking trail and a meeting hall Gathering Place in a restored one room country church building on Lakefield Road at Cassidy Lake constructed in 1883 by the Cassidy’s’ great-great-grandfather, and there are plans in the future phases to add cabins, build a central access road, install utilities and services, and develop waterfront amenities.

The trail on the 150-acre waterfront property was built in 2019 by combat engineers from 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown. Two of the three foot bridges on the trail were recently dedicated to Miramichi-area Second World War veteran Archie MacNaughton, who was killed during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, and Michael Seeley of Fredericton, who died in combat in Iraq in 2006.

Paul said efforts to get the Camp up and running were derailed in 2020 and 2021 by the pandemic, so 2022 was the first year of full operation. The Cassidy’s have also received helpful donations for the project, including a significant gift from the Canadian Tire dealer in Bridgewater, N.S. who heard about the project from their relatives.

“We’re excited to get the word out about this facility, and we’ve had good responses from the groups we intended it for,” said Paul. “It really is a family-oriented facility and is designed for families to use and enjoy the property and waterfront.

“People can go on the property and enjoy the forest therapy or check out the trails and the waterfront. We’re trying to create a multi-use facility on the recreational side and work with groups in the community to offer services on the wellness side too.”

Nicola said the hiking trail was the first part of her family’s vision for the Camp, and there are plans to expand it and host activities in the future.

Paul said the facility is open in the spring, summer, and fall. For more information, or to donate or get involved visit

All donations go towards maintenance and improvements to the site.

Edited version of original article by Nathan DeLong | Brunswick News, Aug 31, 2023