Take a walk around Gull Island Pond

Melissa Jenkins
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Local projects committee dedicated to improving and rejuvenating community

When Gen Short and Bill McCann of Gull Island, Conception Bay applied for a provincial government grant in 2009 to help clean up a couple cemeteries in neighbouring Western Bay, they had no idea how far their vision for helping the community would go.

The group of workers at the Gull Island boardwalk take a quick break to snap a photo. They work at community centres in the neighbouring communities if the weather is bad. Those on hand were, from left, committee member Gen Short, Gerald Hiscock, Jessica Layman, Don Oliver, June Vaters, John Traverse, Andrew Roul, Selena Oliver, Shannon Clarke, committee member Bill McCann and supervisor Betty Clarke.

When Gen Short and Bill McCann of Gull Island, Conception Bay applied for a provincial government grant in 2009 to help clean up a couple cemeteries in neighbouring Western Bay, they had no idea how far their vision for helping the community would go.

During a visit to McCann’s home on Dec. 3, The Compass sat down with two members of the Corpus Christi Community Special Projects committee to chat about the projects they have been working on over the past four years.


Start of something big

The cemetery project was just the beginning.

Short explained the snowball effect began when they were finishing the cemetery project. She and McCann had a sudden realization there were no facilities for children in the community.

“Bill said there is nothing here for the children,” Short said.

“There are lots of children, but they had no place to go,” McCann added. “There wasn’t even a swing set.”

It was then the committee decided to apply for another grant to help build a playground for the neighbourhood.

With the help of some local businesses, volunteers and several workers, the playground became a reality, and was put together and funded entirely by government grants.

The equipment on the playground, which is situated near Gull Island Pond, was primarily built by locals. Slides, plastic climbing rocks and a swing set were the only items that were ready to go when purchased.

It currently includes two slides on a wooden play structure, two sets of swings and a child-sized playhouse.

McCann and Short said they will try to add another piece of playground equipment every year because of the influx of children and families in the area.


Bigger plans

After the successful start to the playground project, McCann was certain he could rejuvenate a project long forgotten — Gull Island boardwalk.

The plan to build a boardwalk and walking trail began many years ago by a separate group, but fell apart quickly. It was a project McCann said he was passionate to get going again.

When the opportunity came to apply for additional grants to begin the boardwalk, the committee jumped on it.

As an incorporated entity since 2011, Corpus Christi Community Special Projects had the authority to apply for provincial crown land — land that belongs to the Canadian Monarchy but controlled by the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Once the application was approved, Short explained, the committee owned the land where the boardwalk was going to be built. There was no longer any concerns over who owned it, or if there would be legal issues with building on it.

The perimeter of Gull Island Pond is approximately four kilometres around. The boardwalk will surround most of it, ending with a walking path.

Local residents have been hired to assist with the project, all paid by the grant funding. But these workers do more than build the boardwalk.


Help where it's needed

Newfoundland weather is known to be unpredictable, which is difficult for outdoor workers who rely on good working conditions to complete a job.

Luckily for the committee, the workers for the boardwalk project have more skills than just nailing boards.

Two experienced carpenters and several labourers have been working on the project since the grant was approved late this spring.

During rainy days, McCann and Short said the workers can’t work outdoors.

“Instead of having the workers sit around and do nothing when it’s raining, we call some of the local centres to see if they want any work done,” McCann said.

These not-for-profit community centres and groups have been happy to take advantage of the extra help because of lack of funds and handymen, he continued.

The committee has sent workers to Lower Island Cove, Western Bay and many communities in between. They have helped paint, build decks and do basic labour work around the centres.

McCann said many organizations, like those the workers have assisted, have applied for funding or grants for workers, but get turned down.


Just the beginning

A lot of work has been completed on the boardwalk to date. McCann said it’s because his workers and local volunteers have been dedicated to the project.

From an aerial view — which McCann has taken many photos — the boardwalk wraps around half the pond, but is getting longer every day.

So far the committee has received some $100,000 in government grants for their projects.

Although the project appears to be well underway, the committee has many plans to implement after the walking trail is completed.

There is currently one rest stop placed along the path.

“We are going to try and have two or three rest stops so people using the boardwalk can take a rest or have a lunch,” McCann said.

He points at a photo, saying they will build a gazebo with a barbeque grill there, so in the summer people can go to barbeque and take in the tranquil scenery.

The walking trail — before all the additions — is expected to be complete in the next two years, funding permitted.

Short remembers when she was a little girl, the neighbourhood moms would bring their children to the pond to go swimming.

“I hope we get it back to that,” she said.

Although the dream began as a clean up project, the dedication and determination of the Corpus Christi Community Special Projects committee has grown into a full-on community project for all ages.

“Our dream is to make a communal area that the community can take hold of and say it’s theirs,” McCann said. “It’ll be a crown jewel.

“We hope that this will help the community grow stronger, bigger and become a good place for children to grow up and for people to enjoy.”


Organizations: Corpus Christi Community Special Projects committee, The Compass, Canadian Monarchy

Geographic location: Gull Island, Western Bay, Conception Bay Newfoundland and Labrador Corpus Christi Community Lower Island Cove

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Recent comments

  • Beverly Delaney
    December 11, 2013 - 21:11

    very excited to see the end result of the boardwalk in our community , and the playground has been a wonderful place for the kids in the area thanks to the dedication and determination of Gen & Bill ..... Thanks !