Nova Scotia

Church's land sell-off hits Big Pond Beach

Residents of Big Pond, N.S., are worried a property sell-off by the Catholic church could jeopardize safe access to a community beach.

Residents of Big Pond, N.S., are worried a property sell-off by the Catholic church could jeopardize safe access to a community beach.

The Diocese of Antigonish is selling land that fronts Big Pond Beach in Cape Breton. It's part of the ongoing sale of church properties in a settlement with sexual abuse claimants.

Big Pond's community council erected a sign near the beach. "We may lose this public beach," the sign reads. It then provides the phone numbers for diocese spokesman Father Paul Abbass, and local politicians.

Council member Terry MacPherson said they put the sign next to a for-sale sign for the Big Pond Parish Hall, which once served as a restaurant.

The diocese is selling the building and the land around it.

MacPherson said that means the only access to Big Pond Beach will be a 4.5-metre right-of-way along the edge of the property.

"It's going to be chaos for the parking. All of these communities, not just Big Pond, they put a lot of time and effort and materials into these properties and I think it means something," he said.

Appeal to Department of Natural Resources

MacPherson said the council asked the diocese if it could buy some land for parking and was told it would not be possible.

He said the council is now looking at getting the provincial Department of Natural Resources to designate the property a public beach and protect access.

Alfie MacLeod, the MLA for the area, said he hoped a solution could be found.

"We're going to work with the community council and just see what we can do to make this situation as seamless as possible," he said.

Abbass was unavailable to offer comment from the diocese.

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