Friends of Gabarus Society, (better known as FOG), was incorporated as a non-profit group in 2012 to promote the interests of the village of Gabarus and surrounding communities.
The initial focus of FOG was to deal with an existential crisis posed by a failing federally owned seawall. The loss of a portion of the seawall due to a storm surge in 1983 had devastating effects. Gabarus lost its original firehall, which had been located immediately behind the seawall. The entire fishing infrastructure in Gabarus Harbour was destroyed. Fishing boats were damaged. Many of them, along with the debris of shattered wharves and fishing shacks, ended up where the present day playground in located. The founding and still current Directors of FOG could never have imagined at that time that it would take over 3 years of intensive lobbying at every level of government to resolve our seawall crisis.
Following an extremely powerful storm in December 2010, a small group of local residents began seeking governmental aid to repair and reinforce the badly deteriorated seawall. It quickly became clear that no level of government wished to take any responsibility for the seawall in Gabarus. To us, this was unacceptable. The damage wrought in 1983 would have been magnified significantly, due to the lack of structural integrity of the seawall. The 2010 storm had torn out pieces of the structure and displaced a portion of it, tipping it toward the ocean. We recognized that it would only have been a matter of time before a catastrophic failure would occur. Unlike the damage in 1983, there was no governmental department at any level who was willing to accept responsibility for repairs prior to its failure and none who would fix the wall again if it failed. The consequence of its failure at that point would have meant an end to the fishing industry in Gabarus. As the seawall sits on what is essentially a sandbar, once the wall was gone, all of the sand would migrate over time to fill in the harbour. Since Gabarus had been ‘deproclaimed’ by the federal government circa 1995, no federal aid would have been made available for dredging the harbour after a seawall breach.
In addition to loss of our harbour, the loss of the seawall would have resulted in periodic flooding of the homes around the harbour and the severance of land access to other homes on Gull Cove Road and Rouses Point.
This crisis led to the initial community organizing in 2010 and the founding of FOG in 2012. When we finally got all three levels of government to come through with a solution to the failing seawall, it still took time for the necessary repairs to be effected. Here is a link to the Toronto Globe and Mail article from July 13, 2013 that summed up the situation.
Since the crisis was averted, FOG and other members of the community have been involved in a variety of major local projects. Details on these ongoing projects can be found on other pages on this website. The projects include the move of the Gabarus Lighthouse 77 feet back from a crumbling cliff being undercut by frequent erosion by storm surges. Janet McGillen and other local incorporators founded the Gabarus Lightkeepers Society in 2013. It was this group that negotiated with the federal government for a license to move and restore the lighthouse. Discussions are still underway about the society accepting divestiture of the structure and real estate from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
There are three other active societies in Gabarus: Gabarus Volunteer Fire Department, (GVFD); Gabarus Cemeteries Association and the Gull Cove Trail Society. The Mildred Gray Memorial Community Hall operates in conjunction with FOG and the GVFD, with which it shares a building.
At a village meeting in September 2016, FOG was asked to take on a coordinating role for all of the local societies, including public relations, advertising and promotion. FOG was also asked to serve as liaison with our website developers, Joe and Bridget of MacHOLL IT Services.
The 1758 siege settled which European power was to control Cape Breton and other areas previously known as New France. It was England that prevailed in what had been to that point an almost continuous French-British rivalry over nearly 150 years.
Gabarus Bay, which boasted an immense natural resource wealth of its own, also provided a safe harbour that provided ready access for fishermen to the immensely valuable and productive fisheries of the North Atlantic. While Codfish were the staple seafood product at the outset, the waters around Gabarus abound with some of the world’s finest lobster, snow crab, halibut and scallops, among other species.
In 2016, Gabarus celebrated its 300th anniversary, making it twice as old as Canada. The community has seen its ups and downs over the centuries, including the closure of the Cod fishery when the species was depleted due to overfishing. At its height, greater Gabarus had a population larger than Sydney, which is now the unofficial capital of Cape Breton Island.
Despite its small year-round population, Gabarus has maintained a vital sense of community, which has pulled together in recent years to protect our harbour and our 125 year-old Gabarus lighthouse, both of which were threatened by an eroding coastline and rising sea levels. These successful preservation efforts have spurred members of the community to join together to build a new 3-bay fire hall and to refurbish the old firehall into a lovely community hall, which can double as an emergency shelter as needed, in the event of power outages.
The Lieutenant Governour of Nova Scotia dedicated the Mildred Grant Gray Memorial Hall and our new Fire hall when he visited the village to present the community with a 2016 Nova Scotia Community Spirit award.
That award provides us with an apt description for Gabarus. We are a community with heart and a Great Spirit, committed to maintaining this lovely place for ourselves and for future generations.