Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the Dec. 24th print edition of The Compass.
For years, people in Brigus have been using the land below the former Anglican church as a picnic spot, and that tradition will be able to continue now that the Brigus Historical and Conservation Society has bought the property where the Anglican rectory once stood.
The green space will now be known as the Payne Family Park, in recognition of the Payne family's connection to Brigus. The heritage society is also hoping to have the land rezoned to green space to ensure it remains a park, said Luanne Leamon, a volunteer and past-president of the society.
The park is at the bottom of the hill below the church, and faces the waterfront. There's a firepit in the green space, and mature trees provide some shade on summer days.
The property was initially owned by Dr. Anderson, who had built an impressive looking house which he later sold to the Anglican church, said Leamon. The church used the house as a rectory, and sold the home in 1924. The home was removed from the property after it was sold.
Since then, Brigus residents and visitors have used the area as an unofficial park, and the heritage society wanted to see that use continued.
"Our aim was really to keep it as a green space so that it wouldn't be developed as private property," said Leamon.
But, before they could preserve the land, they had to get the funds to purchase it. That effort took two-and-a-half years. The society bought the property for $75,000 using funds raised with help from The town of Brigus as well as other heritage preservation societies in the small town.
"It was quite a fundraising effort, and quite a few people helped," said Leamon.
The property was initially on the market for $199,000, but after multiple offers from the society the price was lowered, which Leamon attributes partly to the vendor likely wanting to see the area preserved as a park.
The need to preserve the park first came up in 2004, when the Anglican church was deconsecrated and put up for sale, said Leamon, adding there were concerns the church would be bought and converted to a private enterprise like a bed and breakfast.
There are a handful of properties in Brigus preserved by various heritage groups, and a number of other older privately owned buildings that make the town attractive to summer tourists, and those older buildings are what makes Newfoundland unique, said Leamon, who feels the buildings are worth saving.
"It's important in and of itself, because it's good to know where we came from and what our ancestors did and what values they had and the type of work they worked at, but it's also good for modern day because ... people come to see this kind of attraction," she said.
With winter approaching the heritage society doesn't plan to do too much with the site, but come spring they will be clearing out the overgrowth and cleaning up the site. The town has agreed to clear garbage from the site as well, said Leamon.
With the former rectory site now safe, the heritage society can focus their efforts on other projects, like preserving the Pinkston forge or uncovering the wine cellars near the former fish plant site. Any decision on which project to tackle next will be done by the current society executive, said Leamon.
"We've always had a wish list of things we want to do," she said.