Gore Bay’s 125th is testament to community pride

Happy Birthday Gore Bay!

This year is the 125th anniversary of the incorporation under Ontario law of the Town of Gore Bay as a stand-alone municipality and yesterday, Tuesday April 7, was the 125th anniversary of the town’s day and date of incorporation.

A community-based committee has firm plans for a myriad of activities this spring and summer and later on the year as well to celebrate this milestone year and to instill community pride in local residents in the process.

Actually Gore Bay and Little Current are the same age, having both been incorporated as municipalities in 1890. Things have changed somewhat in Little Current as, in the late 1990s, it lost its identity as a town when it joined with the neighbouring municipalities of Howland and McGregor Bay and the Islands to create a new, larger municipal entity: The Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands.

But not Gore Bay. At about the same time that the province of Ontario was encouraging municipal amalgamation, especially for small rural areas, Gore Bay remained intact, despite putting feelers about the possibility of creating a West End amalgamation which would have included Gordon Township, Barrie Island Township and the unorganized townships of Dawson and Robinson.

This didn’t come to fruition and so Gore Bay remains within the boundaries established for it in 1890, a century and a quarter ago and so a celebration in certainly in order.

There is certainly a sense of pride of place that, among Manitoulin municipalities, is very evident in Gore Bay.

Nearly 20 years ago, this writer and his wife had taken a Sunday afternoon drive on a pleasant fall day to Gore Bay and were walking along the waterfront. A local professional person stopped to say hello as she drove by and, looking around enthusiastically exclaimed, “It really is a pretty place, isn’t it!” There was certainly no disagreement on our part and all that was implied or inferred about that person’s feelings about her town is the same reason why a community committee could be fairly easily found that would spearhead and organize the 125th anniversary events. Gore Bay folks are proud of their town.

In the years since that pleasant exchange, Gore Bay has gone to exemplify its public community endeavours.

The Gore Bay Museum, for example, added substantial new gallery and event studio space at its hub location at the historic jail high above the downtown area.

More recently, the museum and the town cooperated on a business plan that saw the waterfront building originally built in the 1980s as a “business incubator building” (and that has housed the local fish and game club’s fish hatchery) turned into more art studio and gallery space while the fish hatchery moved to new quarters in the town’s old pumphouse building.

The town has accommodated Manitoulin’s fledgeling brewing company, Split Rail Breweries, and its remaining business incubator building in the same locale.

All of these were improvements that give Gore Bay a distinct focus on the arts.

The harbour has been reinvigorated and a new protective break-wall is just now under construction.

Downtown, the Gore Bay Community Hall has had a massive facelift within the past two years, with the assistance of major local industry, Manitoulin Transport and the old building that was the perfect place for the annual wintertime Sailor’s Balls a half century and more ago is now up to date and provides a modern home stage for the award-winning Gore Bay Theatre organization, in addition to other community and cultural events.

Manitoulin Transport is also investing in hometown community pride as the company has purchased vacant downtown business locations and has renovated them for new tenants, successfully, as two new businesses recently opened in one of the renovated buildings.

Every Manitoulin community has something about which to boast but not every place is celebrating 125 years of progress just now so “a tip of the hat” to this historic and vibrant North Channel community.

And once again, happy birthday!