Volunteers help construct new cabins at Ross Creek

Wendy Elliott
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Volunteers from CFB Greenwood and the community turned out on the weekend of April 12-13 to frame 10 new cabins at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. - Wendy Elliott, www.kingscountynews.ca

Ross Creek Centre for the Arts took a vital step towards bringing essential services and innovative projects to rural Nova Scotia recently.

Over the weekend of April 12-13, a group of volunteers from the Canadian Armed Forces and CFB Greenwood constructed 10 new cabins at the facility in Canning.

Executive director Chris O’Neill said she was “so humbled by the extraordinary spirit of these volunteers and their efforts on behalf of this organization.”

She is hopeful that further collaboration can take place with both CFB Greenwood and CFB Aldershot “and others to make a better and more prosperous life for our community.”

The project will have a lasting legacy that will enhance the centre’s values in community-building, artistic innovation and excellence, she added.

The military personnel involved in the cabin-building weekend included those in many occupations, from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Reserves. Some volunteers brought their families along. The centre’s long-standing volunteers, including Ian McKay, who acted as liaison, and Jona Xhepa, who co-ordinated meals for the volunteers over the weekend, were also on hand. 

There will be a follow-up community-building day on May 4, coinciding with Camp Day. On May 25, the centre is inviting volunteers and the wider community to a grand opening of the cabins, with a community potluck dinner and barn dance beginning at 5 p.m.

The cabins were designed to support the building of a new winterized dining hall that is innovative and environmentally sustainable. Engineered to be the first in its style of architecture in North America, O’Neill said the centre has many partners from across the continent, including students and faculty from the Nova Scotia Community College’s Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology program, Dalhousie University’s Coastal Studio, the University of Arizona, and others. Local engineers Larry Honey and Equilibrium Engineering are the main consultants.

The NSCC offers meaningful opportunities for its students and faculty to work together in real-world applications through programs such as the Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology (ESET) Program under Scott Henderson, O’Neill said.

Dalhousie, through the award of a Partnership Grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, has brought in other university programs through a collaborative research hub. Ross Creek’s new dining hall will be the first project of this collaboration with Professor Christopher Trumble and Dr. Ted Cavanagh Tucson’s School of Architecture.


She hopes the new building will be a showpiece of environmental design and innovation.

“With plans to generate power, collect rainwater, use recycled materials when possible, and create in-ground cold storage for food, the new building will be a model in sustainable building design for future institutions and community buildings.”


To achieve those ends, O’Neill said, Ross Creek’s partners are contributing labour, design and some engineering totaling approximately one-third of the cost of the facility. These in-kind contributions allow this project to move forward with requests to the community and the public sector, she said.

Overall, the project, which is called ‘Thinking While Doing’, will cost approximately $1.5 million and one-third of that has been committed already.

“This exciting project will take place over the next year under an umbrella of events,” which O’Neill hopes will involve the community in a range of activities, including raising the cabins and finishing the dining hall’s grid shell, which will hold workshops about building traditional masonry stoves and feature a wood-fired oven.

She says the work will incorporate both traditional and cutting-edge technologies into a sustainable framework that “will make something extraordinary.”

More information about the Thinking While Doing project and how to get involved can be found in the RCCA website at www.artscentre.ca and on its Facebook page. 


Organizations: Nova Scotia Community College, Ross Creek Centre, Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology Canadian Armed Forces Dalhousie University University of Arizona Social Science and Humanities Research Council School of Architecture

Geographic location: Ross Creek, Nova Scotia, Canning North America

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