ARISAIG: One local community group says they wouldn’t have been able to invest in their recreation facility without the continued support from the Municipality of the County of Antigonish and the Province of Nova Scotia.

Ian MacDonald, representing the Arisaig Parish Community Centre Society, told The Reporter their recent $20,000 in funding is truly remarkable, especially since the centre, which was built in 1989 by volunteers, has been extensively used by the community for the past three decades.

“We’re a fairly remote, fishing community along the Northumberland Strait,” MacDonald said. “Before we got things going in our community centre, everyone went to Antigonish or New Glasgow to participate in any activity, sport or otherwise.”

On Oct. 26, the province announced $2.1 million in funding for a total of 60 projects though the recreational facility development and recreational trail expansion grant program, including four locally, that help promote healthier communities, improve infrastructure and foster economic growth.

“At the core of every healthy community are places where people can come together to be active,” Tory Rushton, minister of natural resources and renewables said in a media release. “Trails and recreation facilities contribute significantly to our communities and enable Nova Scotians to access services and lead healthy, active lifestyles.”

MacDonald suggested the support they’re received from communities, culture, tourism and heritage has been second to none.

“You talk about being supportive,” he said. “And they have been nothing but supportive through this whole program, the municipality has been extremely supportive as well.”

MacDonald indicated that back in 2018, the community started playing pickleball and it quickly caught on; now it’s played seven days a week by the Arisaig Pickleball Club, who has a membership of over 70 members, the majority of whom are over the age of 60.

“Our community at that time were kind of in the 50 to 60-plus age demographics, the sport developed very quickly and people liked it because they were able to stay in their community without having to drive to a neighbouring community,” he said. “It gave them great exercise and a great social experience. Even in a snow storm there will be people playing at the community centre, because they don’t have to drive out of their community.”

According to the media release, the funds will help community groups, municipalities and other not-for-profit organizations develop recreation and sport facilities while also helping communities develop, expand and upgrade trails.

In addition to the $20,000 allocated to the Arisaig Parish Community Centre Society, Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation is receiving $50,000, the Whitehaven Community Centre in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) has secured $35,000 and the Havre Boucher Cultural Development and Recreation Association will collect $48,000.

The province’s facility and trail grant programs provide recipients with up to one-third of the total capital cost of a project, to a maximum of $150,000.

MacDonald said with the idea of developing the sport even more, the group built three outdoor pickleball courts which were completed by August 2019, and in 2020 they continued their developments by installing outdoor lights for the courts and in 2021 a 20-foot by 40-foot addition was created to provide storage for tables and chairs to provide space in the center for a new accessible washroom.

He suggested in addition to the pump track recently installed, they also are developing a recreation area on one end of the courts, where they have installed basketball nets and plan to install shuffleboard, the floor replacement project is the next project required to maintain the centre in safe operating condition.

“We’re trying to make it attractive for the people in our community,” MacDonald said. “In that time, since 2018 we started to see a resurgence moving back or moving to Arisaig that are younger families, so what we’re probably going to do with next year’s project is to continue on providing things for the younger community.”

He explained that while younger families didn’t feel they were a part of the community, they are now starting to see the vision.

“Now they’re becoming involved with doing things in the community, which is great,” MacDonald said. “The community centre has never been used as much as when we started pickleball, because it’s used almost every day now.”