A Torontonian and a member of the Gaultois Tourism Association, Jane Pitfield was in Hermitage recently to talk to the Coast of Bays Joint Mayors Committee about re-opening the Baie D’Espoir airstrip. She sat down with Coaster correspondent Wesley Harris in the afternoon to talk about her plans for Gaultois and the Coast of Bays region.
Coaster: How does a former councilor for the city of Toronto get involved in a tourism plan for Gaultois?
Mrs. Pitfield: As a tourist I visited Newfoundland in the 1970s and realized there was something very special about it: it was not until 2008, however, when I was reading Farley Mowat’s Bay of Spirits, that I read about Gaultois and saw the connection between that town and the French Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. So I googled Gaultois and saw that a five-bedroom Captain’s house was for sale; a trip to Gaultois and an overnight stay in that house (which she bought) brought me into contact with Mayor Murray Engram who asked me if I could help make Gaultois a tourism destination. This trip is my 21st to this beautiful village, and I have been getting ready to open the Gaultois Inn which I also purchased.
Coaster: A lot has happened, obviously, since your first trip to Gaultois; tell us about it.
Mrs. Pitfield: I see a different mood in Gaultois because of aquaculture which has become a major employer, but there are a number of people who need work. So the Gaultois Tourism Association (GTA) and I are focusing on them. Last year I wrote a proposal for funding under the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (TIOW) and we received $387,000.00. We just finished a 29-week course in front line hospitality – including a trip to Gander where the workers job-shadowed in three different hotels –and we have seen a lot of confidence building in the residents, some of whom will work in the hotel when I open it on May 21 (she will open the restaurant in the hotel on Mother’s Day, May 8). The workers have created a cookbook, A Taste of Gaultois, which all residents contributed to, and it will be available on May 4
(a fundraiser for the GTA).
We also have another book which will be available on Mother’s Day. Written by Lloyd Lilly, it is titled The Different Places That We Have Come From, and it looks at many of the now resettled places on Long Island where people have come from to live in Gaultois. This book contains research, profiles, and pictures, and Lloyd will be doing a book signing on May 8.
Coaster: Besides opening the inn for food and accommodations, what other plans do you have for it?
Mrs. Pitfield: There is a room downstairs which can accommodate meetings and retreats. Also we hope to have two weekends this tourist season for craft retreats at the Gaultois Inn; the rug hookers of Newfoundland and Labrador will come or we will have quilters or knitters. We are interested in establishing a craft guild with Hermitage, and this will encourage the people from Hermitage and area to come on the weekends for instruction and inspiration.
Coaster: What plans does the GTA have for the former Customs House?
Mrs. Pitfield: What the tourists will want to see are older buildings restored as they were originally (a hobby of Jane’s; she has restored an old house in Ontario). So the house which belonged to Jonas Simms is one of the older homes in Gaultois, and before 1949 it was the Custom Officer’s house, probably built around 1935. A lot of the architectural details have not been destroyed so the GTA was able through the TIOW to have the Heritage Carpentry course begin the restoration of the Customs House. To create jobs the Customs House will have a re-created Customs Office, and the Customs Officer’s house will be in Victorian décor. It will have a restaurant on the main floor with a bar and a large screen television. This house will be open 12 months of the year and will employ a cook, a server, and housekeeping staff to look after the downstairs and the upstairs which will become a bed and breakfast – three bedrooms, two washrooms.
Believe me, the seven people on the GTA want to see the town succeed in its tourism ventures, and they have some other very exciting plans. There’s town beautification that needs to be done, other historic properties to be saved, empty homes to be purchased, and renovated before being sold. All this will create employment.
Coaster: You said that the tourists will come in 2012 after the promotion has been done. What will the tourist enjoy besides the attractions in Gaultois?
Mrs. Pitfield: Well, we’re looking at the adventure tourism side, things like hiking, sea kayaking, fishing, and visits to the French Islands. More specifically, here’s what we hope the tourist can experience: a flight to St. John’s, then another flight to the Baie D’Espoir airstrip followed by a tour of the hydro station, a visit to Conne River for a mini-Pow Wow and lunch, and a trip through the passage with its fiords, waterfalls, and aquaculture until we arrive at Gaultois to experience authentic outport life. From there the tourists could visit St. Pierre and Miquelon.
Coaster: Will the tourists come?
Mrs. Pitfield: For sure they will! Eighty percent of the tourists who come to this province are from Ontario, and they are looking to get away from a stressed out life. They will love the adventure tourism package we offer. Everyone I meet in Ontario wants to see Newfoundland and especially Gaultois. Captain Cook said that this area was “a beautiful land with so much to explore”; my audience in Ontario will realize that. Of course, the local tourists will visit as well, and everyone can find out more by visiting my website at www.gaultoisinn.com.
Coaster: Your optimism is contagious. Thank you for this, and we wish you well!