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Gore Bay residents, businesses rally behind downtown revitalization project

GORE BAY—There is a lot of enthusiasm among Gore Bay residents and businesses to a proposed downtown revitalization project.

“I feel we have the potential to be another Niagara on the Lake and with this plan (in place) our downtown would be very beautiful,” stated Carol Pearson Worsley of M and R Jewelry in Gore Bay. “If this project moves forward it would make our downtown stunning.”

“And it is a good idea to go with a nautical theme and tie the downtown area with the waterfront marina and side streets,” said Ken Worsley.

“The plan was really well accepted at both (downtown revitalization) meetings we had,” said Harry Schlange, Gore Bay town manager. “The concepts were really well accepted because it would really enhance the downtown and connects the waterfront to the downtown area.” 

The downtown revitalization would basically encompass Meredith Street from Main Street to Dawson Street.

The goal of the plan is to transform Gore Bay to be the prettiest small town in Canada, said Mark Elliott of Lifestudio Group landscape architect. “I live in Lively but 㽶Ƶ Island has been my home away from home for 36 years. So, to be able to take part in this type of project is a fantastic opportunity for me.”

“Currently, there is synergistic momentum in Gore Bay that needs to be supported and maintained,” said Mr. Elliott. He pointed out this is a key factor to create a thriving community with a vibrant revitalized downtown. In the last few years Gore Bay has made significant investments into the waterfront boardwalk, a splash pad, playgrounds, sports courts, and the marina. Split Rail Brewing and many more food establishments have popped up. The arts community is strongly represented. A revitalized downtown street space with new connections to the marina and waterfront is being presented in this document. 

“Someone at the (business operators) meeting last night said it would be nice for the downtown area to look different and more vibrant than other communities,” said Mr. Elliott. 

“Social images are big, and beautiful, welcoming scenery can bring people to town,” he said. The Gore Bay downtown revitalization project is an exciting opportunity to harness Gore Bay’s proud history and identity as the building blocks to re-imagine the kind of community you want to be for the next 50 years, he said. 

There are many towns in Nova Scotia with a population approximately the size of Gore Bay. Communities like Mahone Bay and Lunenburg are world-renowned small-town destinations that people from all over the world come to visit, said Mr. Elliott.  While tourism is a desired benefit for this project, there are many more desirable outcomes and experiences to create. This project is about pride and community building—building a place to live, work, visit and play. 

“Ninety percent of decisions people make are based on emotion. What we are trying to create is a downtown that people fall in love with the town, set up business and live here,” said Mr. Elliott. “I think there are three main streetscape themes proposed to develop a distinct sense of place that reflects Gore Bay’s identity. 1. Nautical history. Gore Bay has a rich nautical history as a preferred harbour and designation on the Great Lakes. Ships have been coming here since 1890. He said part of the concept is to have a ships mast entry feature with string lights leading visitors into the town at the corner of Meredith and Main Streets.  

“Secondly, there is the geology. 㽶Ƶ limestone is a world-famous local landscape and building material that most reflects the identity of Gore Bay,” said Mr. Elliott. “Three, the town deer. This is a really special thing. Like them or not, the town deer need to be embraced. They have become an iconic symbol of Gore Bay living harmoniously with nature.”

Among the many other concepts that the plan could include is double light standards with seasonal planting baskets, lots of beautiful bright coloured trees that would draw people to the town, limestone benches with the opportunity for family sponsorship plaques, limestone bollard and planters used for Christmas displays, sponsored gardens, bollard/seating rocks, concrete steps, bike racks, permeable pavers, raised planting beds, asphalt or interlock (street option), flexible or curbless streets, gardens, limestone, banners, lights and trees connect municipal nodes together to the waterfront/marina and side streets. The concept is designed to intertwine all modes of transportation from walking, bicycling and vehicle transportation. 

“Trees are extremely valuable assets downtown,” said Mr. Elliott who said “We had a couple of technician people look at the trees in town. They are all about 40 years old, and you can see damage from snowplows and disease. They are on the down cycle. He said they need to be replaced and new planting needs to begin, noting different trees such as autumn blaze and others similar would provide a spectacular setting for anyone coming into the downtown area and would attract visitors. Under the proposal silva cells would be used. The silva cell is a modular suspended pavement system that uses soil volumes to support large tree growth and provide powerful on-site stormwater management through absorption, evapotranspiration and intercept.  

“Who is going to fund all of this?” asked one attendee at the meeting. 

Mr. Schlange answered, “we have started to cost this out. This is all a possibility,” saying the concepts can be done in stages. Everything is very possible, but it is town council that will make the final decision. He said after the concepts are costed out they will be presented to council this fall for consideration. 

Article written by

Michael Erskine
Michael Erskine
Michael Erskine BA (Hons) is a staff writer at The 㽶Ƶ Expositor. He received his honours BA from Laurentian University in 1987. His former lives include underground miner, oil rig roughneck, early childhood educator, elementary school teacher, college professor and community legal worker. Michael has written several college course manuals and has won numerous Ontario Community Newspaper Awards in the rural, business and finance and editorial categories.