Gordon Kerr, chair of the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association’s signage committee, made a presentation at the October 23 meeting of Richmond Municipal Council in Arichat.

ARICHAT: Council turned down a request to make a funding commitment toward a signage project promoting the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere.

Richmond Municipal Council did agree to send a letter of support for the project to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) during the October 23 monthly meeting in Arichat.

Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association signage committee chair Gordon Kerr told council his organization wants to erect welcome signs, visitor information signs, marine signs, and pedestrian signs around Cape Breton. The group wants to erect signs in places like Highway 4, Highway 104, Trans-Canada Highway 105, the St. Peter’s Canal, Big Bras d’Or, signs at First Nations communities, and two welcome signs into Richmond County.

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Although the Trans-Canada Trail has erected water route signs around the Bras d’Or Lake, Kerr noted that “we still don’t have big road and waterway signs” promoting the biosphere.

Kerr said this project can empower people to feel a sense of ownership of the Bras d’Or Lake. He said signage is a tourism builder that promotes awareness, provides easy public access, gives an opportunity for partnerships with business, and creates economic development opportunities.

There is money available, but Kerr told the council that ACOA wants funding commitments from partners like municipalities and the application has to be ready by mid-November.

For the project, which exceeds $600,000, the group is looking at receiving 60 per cent of the funding from ACOA, 20 per cent from the province, 10 per cent from municipalities, and 10 per cent from First Nations.

Kerr said the group first wants to get the financing in place.

“We’ll find out how much money we have, then rework the plan.”

Aside from not promoting Isle Madame as a tourist destination, district 1 councillor James Goyetche said he could not commit to funding until he received updated costs and how much other levels of government are contributing.

Kerr responded that what benefits Richmond County, can benefit Isle Madame as well. He also said ACOA wants funding partners in place before the group submits its application.

Like Goyetche, district 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher said without knowing the difference in cost from 2013, when signage estimates were originally sought, he could not support the funding commitment.

Based on the suggestion of district 2 councillor Alvin Martell, council voted to send a letter of support, conditional on the financial contributions of other partners.

“I think there’s some appetite for this and they need something to go to ACOA with,” Martell added.