Communities around the Bras d’Or Lake are getting ready to celebrate the unique body of water that lies in the heart of Cape Breton, and the surrounding rivers, hills and valleys that make up its watershed. The Bras d’Or watershed was designated as Canada’s newest Biosphere Reserve earlier this summer. There are now 16 Biosphere Reserves in Canada and 580 sites worldwide. These are places where local communities have accepted the challenge to live sustainably: balancing conservation of biological and cultural diversity with economic and social development. After 8 years of volunteer efforts, the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association (BLBRA) is inviting the whole island to celebrate this exciting designation with them this weekend.
“Although the UNESCO designation applies specifically to the Bras d’Or Lake and its watershed, this world-level award is cause for all of Cape Breton to celebrate. It proclaims that we already strive to live in harmony with nature. The Biosphere Reserve area is part of the Island’s four counties and encompasses lands of its five First Nations communities. As such, the Bras d’Or is a significant part of the whole fabric of Cape Breton Island,” says BLBRA chair Dr. Teresa MacNeil.
Jessica Farrell, event planner for this weekend’s activities, says this is going to be a unique Cape Breton community celebration. “Local groups have come together to organize events in their communities around the lake to celebrate this special UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve designation. Also, the core event, or Designation Celebratory Concert, will include performances by artists from the four predominant cultures inhabiting the Lake. This will include collaborative multi-cultural performances, which are very unique,” says Farrell. “There will be something for everyone!” she exclaims.
“Our community events include a hiking mob, farmers markets, concerts, interpretive walks, a 25 km bike ride, community breakfast, underwater clean-up and more. At the core event, taking place at 2pm, September 17, at the Highland Village, there will be a puppet show, art exhibit, play, and free admission to the Highland Village Museum, so people can bring their whole family.”
The Colin Grant Band, Les Zorvenants, Chief Leroy Denny, The Beaton Sisters Band, Cyril MacPhee and Darrell Keigan, Jeff MacDonald, Joanne MacIntyre, Gaelic singers, Mi’kmaq drummers, Kitpu singers, Mooney Francis, Vincent Joe, and Acadian dancers will all be performing at the free Designation Celebratory Concert, this Saturday September 17th.
BLBRA board member Jim Foulds commented that “If everyone around the Bras d’Or were to just take a moment and raise a glass in celebration of the Lake and this designation, I’d be happy.” Of course, it’d make for a better party if you came out to the concert or participated in a community event! To find out more about the events taking place, you can visit the BLBRA website.