Ben Eoin Recreation hopes to increase users, lower prices

The Ben Eoin Recreation facility on Cape Breton's Bras d'Or Lakes hopes to draw more users to its ski hill, golf course and marina and will lower its prices to do it, says new chief operating officer Jim Gilbert.

New COO wants facilities more accessible to the public, will lop $300 off golf membership

Ben Eoin Recreation chief operating officer Jim Gilbert took over the golf, ski and marina facilities on the Bras d'Or Lakes in May. (Holly Conners/CBC)

The new head of Ben Eoin Recreation is looking to grow the operation while making it more inclusive and accessible to locals.

Jim Gilbert, who started as the organization's first full-time executive officer in May, says he hopes to make Ski Ben Eoin, the Lakes Golf Club and Ben Eoin Yacht Club an affordable option for Cape Bretoners.

"I noticed in some of our prices we've been a bit high, so we want to reduce that in some cases and grow participation."

For example, he said the cost of a one-year golf membership will be reduced by $300.

He said he also wants to open up the facilities to the wider community.

"If you look at the marina, for example, it's a great place for people for boating, but also we've had a lot of events, for weddings, and every Friday night we have socials," said Gilbert. "We want to let people know that this place is here for everyone to use and that's same for the ski hill and the golf."

Gilbert said he plans to pursue tourism opportunities through partnerships with the island's other golf courses, and wider marketing of the ski hill.

A longer-range goal is to build accommodations around the golf course and ski hill site, he said.

Hotel, cabins, even condos considered

"Ideally, we'd like to have some form of hotel. I mean, I think that would be fantastic. The view is spectacular of the Bras d'Or Lakes, in all seasons," he said. "So what size, and who would come in [as partners] and those type of things, we're not at that place yet.  But I would like to see that."

He said there may be potential for other types of accommodations.

"We're looking at the demographic as well and we're seeing a lot of retirees. Is there an opportunity there to have condos or time shares or things like that? So right now we're in the evaluation stages," said Gilbert.

"I wouldn't say that we have any plan that's fully baked. But what we do have is we know we have an asset, we have an opportunity, and we want to expand on it."

Gilbert was born in Cape Breton, but worked off-island for several years as an executive with Canada Post and Atlantic Lottery.

He most recently launched a consulting business focused on helping companies grow.

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