Beautiful, reborn Gore Bay Harbour Centre now open

GORE BAY––The beautiful new Gore Bay Harbour Centre had its first of two official grand openings last Friday.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman, and welcome to the Gore Bay Harbour Centre,” stated Betsy Clark, a Gore Bay councillor and chair of the board for the Gore Bay and Western Manitoulin Museum.

Ms. Clark explained, “when Nicole Weppler (museum curator) walked through this building several years ago, she had a vision of what it could be and quickly brought it to the board’s attention. Plans were made, presented to the previous council and they agreed to give us a chance to seek funding and proceed. Nicole put pen to paper, we anxiously waited, were successful and hence you are here today to see our beautiful building. Our board and building committee worked together with our office staff and the construction crew and Nicole’s dream became a reality.”

“We could not have made this happen without the generous contributions from FedNor, Northern Ontario Heritage, Cultural Spaces, LAMBAC and Trillium. Our sincere thanks to each and every one one of you,” continued Ms. Clark. She bade everyone to, “enjoy your visit this afternoon and please do come back and visit as we still have outside work to do before our building is a fait accompli.”

“Thanks to you we have added to our beautiful waterfront and been able to add new businesses to our town,” said Ms. Clark. “Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce you to our mayor, Ron Lane.”

Mr. Lane said this newly refurbished building will be another key to the town’s harbour in bringing people into town. “A few short years ago this building had an uncertain future. Although it is a landmark and ushers the north end of our harbour, it had fallen into disrepair and was a liability for the town.”

“There was a lot of discussion, and there were some who thought that it was not worth putting any taxpayer’s money into it and should be dispersed into the private sector,” said Mr. Lane. “However, common sense prevailed and our museum board came up with an idea that would see this landmark refurbished to become a cultural central and marine history display that would not only complement our waterfront but will be a drawing card for visitors to Gore Bay.”

“And so, with a lot of creativity, hard work and the assistance of numerous partners, this building has been reborn and will stand for many years to come as an asset to the town of Gore Bay and not a liability,” continued Mr. Lane. He pointed out there were a number of partners who assisted with the program, and the budget for the project was $790,000, “which is a lot of money but well worth every cent. Those who provided support to the project included FedNor, Northern Ontario Heritage, Trillium Fund, Canadian Heritage Fund-Culture Spaces Program and LAMBAC. “And special mention must go to LAMBAC for all their assistance in the feasibility study and applications,” said Mr. Lane.

“And a special thank you on behalf of council and myself to the museum board and Nicole Weppler. This was a very big project but the board had already shown what they could do with the existing museum project,” said Mr. Lane. “And special thanks particularly to Nicole Weppler, our amazing curator. For all her time, effort, and creativity she put into this and other projects. She is very humble, but definitely deserves recognition for her efforts.”

“Also to Annette Clarke and Pam Bond for all their support, tendering, and financial work behind the scenes,” added Mr. Lane.

Arik Theijsmeijer, of FedNor, read a message from FedNor minister Tony Clement. “This is an exciting time for the Manitoulin region and I wish I could join you in person today as you celebrate the official opening of the Gore Bay Harbour Centre.”

“On behalf of the Harper government and everyone at FedNor, I would like to congratulate all the volunteers and community partners who have helped transform the Gore Bay waterfront area into the thriving tourism attraction that it is today,” wrote Mr. Clement.

“Waterfront development is a proven economic driver for Northern Ontario communities,” wrote Mr. Clement. “I am proud that the Government of Canada, through FedNor, has invested over $2 million to support all development phases of the Gore Bay Harbour Centre. This impressive project is an excellent example of how communities can capitalize on their strengths to create jobs, growth and prosperity.”

“As minister for FedNor, I recognize the economic benefits the Gore Bay Harbour Centre will deliver for the Manitoulin region and I look forward to witnessing these results first hand during my next visit to the area,” wrote Mr. Clement. “Once again, congratulations on reaching this important milestone and please accept my best wishes for the upcoming tourist season.”

The second floor of the fabulous harbour centre has seven business centres, with five already having been filled by Fish Point Studio (Helen Siksek), Lucky Stone Vintage (Pam Blodgett), Ravenseyrie (Lynne Gerrard with two studios), and North Channel General. Plans are in place for the two centres that are available as well.

The third floor of the building will now house the beautiful new William Purvis Marine Centre, while the downstairs will include the Manitoulin Planning Board office space, and a room where meetings can be held, or artisans can provide demonstrations. Another retail spot is going to be built which is so far not rented out.

The beautiful bright open business-office locations will provide for a very nice setting and encourage visitors to the building. But it is also being looked at by its current vendors as an ideal place to showcase their works, and it provides a creative aspect for them.

“It was a long wait to have this building constructed but it is well worth it, as I knew it would be,” said Lynne Gerrard of Ravenseyrie Studios. “It feels alive.”

“It is definitely more attractive and encourages more visitors,” said Ms. Gerrard. “We really need to thank Nicole for her vision, and the funders who were all aboard in supporting this project. I feel grateful and inspired.”

Pam Blodgett of Lucky Stone Vintage said, “I am very excited with this new building on the waterfront. There is a lot of natural light in the building and beautiful space and now vintage shops set up. I think it will be a real asset to the town and draw tourists to the marine museum upstairs and the shops on the second floor. Nicole has been such a major driving force for this beautiful building. It is outstanding.”

Rad Mroz of North Channel General said, “this is an amazing building. I feel really good that we have had the opportunity of opening our business in this space. It is a great incubator for being able to start a new business, and being creative.”

Gore Bay shipping expert Buck Longhurst provided a tour of the many items, pictures, marine exhibits, stories, and other marine type memorabilia, at the William Purvis Marine Centre.

“Everything that is here is tied to the Great Lakes,” said Mr. Purvis. Among the many items on display is an 1889 steam whistle from the vessel Mindemoya, and one from the R.H. Dobson (a Purvis fishing tug from 1902).

Ms. Clark pointed out the opening last week was for the Harbour Centre funders, with a grand opening for the public to take place later this year.

 Tom Sasvari