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Western Bay Boardwalk of Art allows residents, tourists unique opportunity to leave their mark

These are examples of the types of messages people are painting in the boards for the Western Bay Lighthouse Trails project.
These are examples of the types of messages people are painting in the boards for the Western Bay Lighthouse Trails project. - Sam McNeish

Western Bay Lighthouse Trails has sold more than 400 boards to help fund boardwalk upkeep

WESTERN BAY, N.L. —

What may have started out as a make-work project for residents of the tiny community of Western Bay, has grown into a vast and popular landmark.

The residents, who may have been seeking a means of getting a few extra week’s work towards their employment insurance premiums, built a boardwalk that was intended to run  from the start of the path to the Western Bay Lighthouse, nearly 1.5 kilometres along the trail.

This construction started in 2009 and was carried out by the North Shore Regional Development Association.

“They applied for grants in order to get people some work and it went well," Charis Cotter, one of the Western Bay Lighthouse Trails committee member said.

“Hurricane Igor destroyed the original boardwalk. It got picked up and blown about 20 feet from where it originated. Other parts got blow away over the next few years as well in windstorms,’’ she added.

The North Shore Regional Development Association, that no longer exists, went to work and completed the repairs.

Fast forward to 2017 when a new group in the communuity was seeking ways to find money to serve as upkeep funds, something that is difficult — so one of the residents — Tom Whalen — came up with the idea to sell individually painted boards to residents and tourists for $15 each.

Those boards, of which wound up being approximately 400, contain a variety of messages, names of people in the community and even a group of boards donated that depicts all the provinces of Canada and when they entered into Confederation. People can paint pictures, quote from poetry or make a memorial for a loved one who is no longer with us.

“Tom thought, ‘why not paint the boards and make them artistic’. So we set out to do that as the boardwalk needed some upkeep,’’ Cotter said.

“We are gradually replacing the old boards on the boardwalk with individually painted boards, creating a Boardwalk of Art,’’ she added.

Western Bay Lighthouse Trails is a group of local volunteers who are working to maintain and improve the Western Bay Boardwalk and the trails to the lighthouse and to Bradley’s Cove.

The committee is comprised of Cotter, Brendan Follett, Kitty Whalen and Shirley Ann Bartlett.

In addition, they have assisted in other projects in the community including contributions to work in Tacker’s Cove, a small harbour where the locals come into as part of the food fishery. This was done by the local fisherman who use the cove.

Those improvements included placing picnic tables on the site, tables to clean to the fish, painted rocks and a fire pit.

In addition, the Western Bay Lighthouse Trails Committee have erected signs as part of an environmental project that asks anyone using the cove or the beach to try and pick up three pieces of plastic (or trash) during their time there.

“People have been happy with what’s been happening and are pleased to see the community pride that the Boardwalk and other projects are generating,’’ Cotter said.

She said people can paint pictures, quote from poetry or make a memorial for a loved one who is no longer with us.

This has turned into a year-round initiative that not only includes people making personal donations to the Boardwalk, the community hosts an ongoing recycling drive to help fund the projects and they hold community dances periodically to raise money.

“Charis and Brendan asked me to join a committee and we had our first meeting in 2017,’’ Bartlett said.

“So in May we held a paint a board day for anyone who wanted to come and paint a board. We had a great turnout,’’ she added.

Bartlett said the project was a big undertaking and the committee wasn’t sure of the support they would get as they do live in a small community.

They organize what they call work days, where the committee and others from the community pick a date and make their way to the boardwalk to put down painted boards, clean up litter in the area and do whatever maintenance needs to be done.

“There is a great sense of community pride, especially when you hear the feedback we get on the project,’’ she said.

“We have a really nice community here with a host of hidden surprises for everyone.”

She said it won’t be long before they do the annual fall meeting to make a wish list, set out a budget, and go about raising the money necessary to do the projects this coming winter.

They are always selling boards to be painted, the recycling drive starts at the drop-off spot at the post office where Bartlett works in Western Bay and a few dances will be scheduled for the winter.

The only donation they have received from a corporation came from Walmart in Carbonear, the rest came from the individual fundraisers held by the committee.

“Brendan is a master salesman. He played a big part in selling many of those  400 boards and that number is expected to grow,’’ Cotter said.

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