The Associations section of my web site describes associations to which I belong and which I have found useful; they are listed alphabetically. If you know of other associations not listed here that should be added, please so notify me using the address in the footer at the bottom of this page.
Les Amis du Plein Air (Friends of the Outdoors) runs the excellent nature book store in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park Visitors’ Centre outside Chéticamp, said to be Atlantic Canada’s largest. It offers a fine selection (in both French and English) of books exploring nature and the natural world (flowers, animals, weather, skies, etc.); Cape Breton’s cultures (including cuisines) and history; maps (including topographic maps of Cape Breton); and books of general interest to the Cape Breton visitor (park guides, hiking books, etc.). In addition, it offers self-guiding audio recordings in both French and English that you can listen to in your car as you tour the Park. Souvenirs, fine illustrated calendars, post cards, apparel, and other gift-shop type merchanise are on offer as well, but the primary emphasis is on books.
This non-profit association offered a lifetime membership for a one-time payment of $10 (in 2007). Until 2010, membership benefits included a discount of 15% on the price of each item purchased, to obtain which you had to present your membership card (or find an obliging clerk who could verify your membership). If, like me, you purchase a fair amount on each visit, this discount adds up quickly to recoup the cost of the lifetime membership. In 2010, the association was forced to suspend the discount because of a significant downturn in the number of visitors to the book store; I am not aware of when or if it will subsequently be reïnstated.
In 2007, the association’s web site was at http://www.lesamisdupleinair.com/; as of 2011, however, this Internet address leads to a page listing information of interest to campers the world over and has no association with the organization described here. This Parks Canada web page describes the association’s long relationship with Parks Canada and its involvement with other activities centred around the Park.
C. P. 472
Chéticamp, NS B0E 1H0
In any case, keeping this book store going, discount or no discount, and supporting its other activities is well worth the minimal cost of membership.
The Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association was founded in 1973 in response to the CBC documentary entitled The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler, produced by Ron MacInnis; see the association’s history web page for the group of renowned individuals who organized the first Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling held in Glendale in July, 1973, which led in turn to the creation of this association, whose annual concerts continue to this day (though in August in St. Anns, rather than in July in Glendale), gathering Cape Breton musicians of all ages together in a great celebration of the music. See the Concerts and Festivals section of my web site for my reviews of the festivals from 2006 to the present, which also include numerous photos.
The association promotes the traditional Scottish music played in Cape Breton, but is not limited to fiddlers: pianists, guitarists, players of other instruments, and step dancers and Highland dancers also participate in the association’s activities. Indeed, those, such as myself who play no instrument, are eligible to join the association, which raises funds to support classes for young, aspiring musicians in this musical tradition, as well as providing them opportunities throughout the year to meet with their peers and and mentors and to perform in public concerts.
The association has produced a CD, entitled Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association 25th Anniversary, and, in 2007 December, released a compendium in which “267 [f]iddle tunes from approximately seventy-five contemporary Cape Breton composers are presented together with Scottish and Cape Breton music from earlier centuries”, in the words of Paul Cranford’s description on his web site and on-line store.
If you are interested in joining the Association or in supporting its valuable work, see the Association’s web site, where you will find the requisite contact information. The dues are $25 per year if you reside in Canada full-time and $30 per year otherwise.
The Cape Mabou Trail Club is the non-profit volunteer organization which, under the past dedicated leadership of Ian Sherman, kept the Cape Mabou hiking trails in their top-notch condition. In 2006, he added two fine new trails to the system, which now numbers eighteen¹ trails.
Unfortunately, the trails in this system were closed in 2009 and remained closed in 2010 due to the extensive number of dead white spruce trees which presented the twin dangers of fire and falling trees. As described here, here, and here, some of the trails were reöpened in 2011, 2012, and 2013, thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers under the leadership of Nadine Hunt. Severe damage occurred in the winter of 2013/2014, bringing down many deadfalls; more deadfalls were felled by the heavy snowfall and high winds of the severe winter of 2014/2015. Check the club’s web site for the latest updates on the cleared trails.
The Cape Mabou Trail Club publishes a map describing the trail system that is available at a nominal charge ($5 as of January, 2007); you can buy one at the Freshmart and Nest in Mabou, the Inverness Visitor’s Centre, and the Department of Recreation and Tourism Office in Port Hood. The trail map offers good descriptions of the trails and rates them as to their difficulty, so it is a resource that is well worth having before you set out on the trails. Other than donations, it is the only fund-raising activity that supports the club.
The Cape Mabou Trail club’s web site, new in 2014, can be found here; a small version of the trail system map can be found on that web site (click the Trails button). The club also has a presence on Facebook: look for “Cape Mabou Trail Club”.
Given the severe winter weather, the erosion occurring at all times of the year, the trees killed by the spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis), and the incessant growth of brush and plants during spring and summer, trail work is constantly necessary to keep these trails open. If you can supply volunteer labour to work on clearing deadfalls and maintaining the trails, call Nadine Hunt and enquire about the trail work schedule.
Your financial assistance directly supports the club’s activities in obtaining continued access to the trails in the system, some of which pass over private lands, and in keeping them open and usable.
¹ The Cape Mabou Trail Club trail map lists fifteen trails; to these are added the Highpass Trail, connecting MacKinnons Brook Trail to the Làirig Na Creige (Rocky Hillside) Trail opened in 2005; the MacPhee Trail, connecting the Beinn Alasdair Bhain (Fair Alistair’s Mountain) Trail to the Cul Na Beinne (Beyond the Mountain) Trail, opened in 2006; and the Beaton Trail, connecting the MacPhee Trail to MacKinnons Brook, also opened in 2006.↩
In 2014, the Seawall Trail Society was formed to create an epic trail along the coast and cliffs of Northern Cape Breton, much of it currently inaccessible by land (that coast is well illustrated in my photo essay, The Spectacular Northwestern Inverness County Coast). The members of this forward-looking Society, some of whom I know and count as friends, is a diverse group of outdoors enthusiasts from many walks of life—teachers, engineers, professors, fishermen, writers, contractors, outfitters, chefs, and guides—that is passionate about nature, exploring, hiking, and grassroots community development. Grounded in the local communities of Northern Cape Breton, they understand the area and its pristine natural riches as well as the economic benefits such a trail, intended to attract hikers from the world over, would bring to Northern Cape Breton.
The proposed trail will offer a three-to-five day wilderness hike for the experienced hiker through steep river valleys, majestic old growth forests, and along a ruggedly spectacular coastline with hidden waterfalls and magnificent vistas. Huts and tent sites will necessarily be provided for overnight stays during such an extended and arduous trek. Much of the trail lies inside the Polletts Cove-Aspy Fault Wilderness Area and will make both the coast and the Polletts Cove and Blair River areas available to “foreign backpackers and visiting tourists who want to experience an authentic coastal wilderness adventure; hikers and explorers from Cape Breton and across Canada; educators and scientists for teaching and research; community groups for programming and skills development; First Nations as a way to get back to the land and to pass on traditional activities; and local residents as a way to further explore their ‘back yard’”, in the words of the Society’s web site.
Currently in the planning and development stage, to be completed by the summer of 2017, the Society is raising funds for advancing the trail and writing grant applications to the various levels of government. The Society’s web site offers a proposed trail map, some stunning photos of the scenery along the trail, a newsletter subscription, and a donate button that allows you to contribute to this effort. I am immeasurably richer for having been privileged to hike to Cape St Lawrence and Lowland Cove multiple times and, having seen much of the rest of this stunning coast from the water, I realize how vital such a trail is. Please visit the Society’s web site for further information and, if you can support this magnificent effort in any way, please join me in doing so.
The Strathspey Place is a superb 491-seat venue located in Mabou’s Dalbrae Academy on the west edge of the village (11156 Route 19). This state-of-the-art facility is used for community concerts, Celtic Colours concerts, plays, literary evenings, performances by touring artists, and other similar cultural events.
The Strathspey Place Association is a Canadian registered charity. Like the venue, its aims are to promote Cape Breton’s culture, provide both students and adults with learning opportunities, and to foster western Cape Breton Island’s economic development. For the (non-tax-deductible) individual $20 or family $30 annual membership fee, you get a 20% discount on the advance purchase of two tickets to each event sponsored by the Association, entry to the annual Members’ Reception, and input into how Strathspey Place serves the community.
You can find the current calendar of events and information on becoming a member of the Association on its web site.
The non-profit volunteer organization known as the West Mabou Beach Committee was responsible for preserving the beautiful area now known as the West Mabou Beach Provincial Park as an unfunded provincial park and continues to be interested in its management and direction. This committee has found volunteers to build hiking trails along the coast above the beach and along the Mabou River, offering superb views of this beautiful area and glimpses of its bird and wildlife. They have provided planks over muddy areas, bridges over streams, picnic tables at a number of the many gorgeous views, excellent signage, and interpretive information at the extensive parking areas. They keep the beach area free of sea-borne debris and safe for swimming. These amenities testify to their wise use of the very skimpy financial resources available to them.
Insofar as I am aware, the committee currently has no web site.