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Grand Falls-Windsor closing in on takeover of former mill lands

Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel stands outside Grand Falls House, a historic property the town will inherit when the transfer of the mill properties goes through.
Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel stands outside Grand Falls House, a historic property the town will inherit when the transfer of the mill properties goes through. Nicholas Mercer

Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L. — When Peggy Bartlett looks at Grand Falls House she sees an innumerable amount of possibilities.  

Grand Falls House is sure to be the centrepiece of the town’s tourism portfolio when it becomes the property of the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society. Nicholas Mercer/The Central Voice
Grand Falls House is sure to be the centrepiece of the town’s tourism portfolio when it becomes the property of the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society. Nicholas Mercer/The Central Voice

Sitting atop 10 acres of land belonging to the provincial government overlooking the Exploits River, the century-old Tudor style home is one of the last remaining vestiges of Alfred Harmsworth in Grand Falls-Windsor. 

“There is so much we could do with that property,” said Bartlett, who is the chairwoman of the Grand Falls House Foundation. “It has lots of potential.” 

It is a property she sees that lends itself to summer tourism complete with garden parties, musical performances and theatre on the lawn, amongst other dreams and ideas. 

The Grand Falls House Foundation, a component of the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society, has been involved with the town’s efforts to take control of the former Abitibi paper mill lands since the process started. 

They see the Grand Falls House as an integral thread in the story of the town and want to use it as a catalyst to bring people into town. 

“We want to be able to get in there and tell the story of the town,” said Bartlett. “It has significant heritage significance and we want to be able to use that for tourism.” 

She sees tour buses going to places like Twillingate and Grose Morne National Park and sees Grand Falls House as a way to bring those busses to Grand Falls-Windsor. 

“People come through here in the summer, but they don’t necessarily stop,” said Bartlett. “There is so much we could do up on that property.” 

The latest correspondence the town received from the provincial government recommended the application be separated into three parts. 

The first would see an application to take control of Grand Falls House and its surrounding 10 acres. 

A second application is for the ownership of the five-acre parcel of land where the old mill training centre was located. That building is now the home of the heritage society. 

Finally, a third application would be submitted to lease the land where the mill was. This would ensure the town could not be held liable if there was the discovery of any additional contamination. 

Representatives with the Department of Transportation and Works did not provide a comment for this story prior to deadline Monday. 

The land of former Abitibi paper mill will hopefully be handed over to Grand Falls-Windsor in the near future. Central Voice file photo
The land of former Abitibi paper mill will hopefully be handed over to Grand Falls-Windsor in the near future. Central Voice file photo

“As a town, we have to make sure we are protected from any potential liabilities now and into the future,” said Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel during a March 3 council meeting. “We want to make sure we are 100 per cent protected.” 

The decision to move forward with a three-pronged application to take over the mill lands was approved during that same meeting. 

It's been a decade since the provincial government expropriated the land from Abitibi, and several since it committed to move much of that land into the hands of Grand Falls-Windsor to with what they will. 

So, to say it has been a long road to even get to this point would be a fair assessment. 

“We’re hopeful this recent ask of government will be enough to allow both sides to move forward, allow both sides to be comfortable with the future of the property and we can move forward with the plans that exist for the site.” 

nicholas.mercer@thecentralvoice.ca 

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