Ferrymen's Hall officially opened in Grand Narrows
By Erin Pottie - Cape Breton Post
GRAND NARROWS — It sits at the centre of the Bras d'Or Lake and is considered a popular scenic destination in Cape Breton, and now the Grand Narrows waterfront has something more to offer.
As part of the official opening of the community's Ferrymen's Hall, the Grand Narrows Waterfront Development Society also officially opened its new café to provide food and refreshments to locals and visitors alike.
The facility was constructed about eight years ago, but was recently upgraded to allow it to serve multiple functions.
"We needed a gathering place," said society member Donnie Campbell. "We needed a community hall, we needed an eatery."
The non-profit development society, which was started in 1993, has been working for the past 19 years to create the hall and to provide continued public access to the Grand Narrows waterfront, while supporting the local development of employment, culture and recreation.
The group was formed in response to the Nova Scotia government's replacing of the Grand Narrows ferry service with the Barra Strait bridge.
"The ferry service, not only was it an employer, it employed 23 full-time jobs," said Campbell. "Good paying, year-round jobs. So there was definitely an economic impact as a result of the ferry going. And also, probably one of the bigger things was a fear from our community that we didn't want to lose public access to our waterfront."
As a result of the society's efforts, the community was able to secure access to the land and the wharfage. The society also developed a strategic development plan for the community.
An interpretive centre to provide insight into the area's cultural heritage is part of the next phase of that plan.
Already, the Grand Narrows waterfront provides visitors with a marina with boat pump out for sewage treatment, washroom facilities, laundry services and showers.
"Not only was Grand Narrows know for its ferry service but prior to that it was known as the Port of Grand Narrows," said Campbell. "There was a customs office here, there was a post office, there (is) a Grand Narrows hotel, there was the Grand Narrows train station and the Grand Narrows school. These items play a big part in our community pride."
Hoss MacKenzie, a society director, said the additions made to the waterfront provide an important opportunity for summer employment for some of the area's school aged children.
He said it's also important to try to fill a void in service in the Grand Narrows community.
"There's not much on Route 223," said MacKenzie. "We're just trying to extend our services to the people that are travelling on the highways and the locals."
The café, which will be open all summer long, will feature soups, sandwiches and tea and coffee.
The hall space will be used for meetings, family reunions and workshops.
Photo Caption: Hoss MacKenzie, a director of the Grand Narrows Waterfront Development Society, is shown firing up the barbecue during the official grand opening of the Ferrymen’s Hall and café. Erin Pottie - Cape Breton Post