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Les Amis du Plein Air – Le Nique Librairie nature Bookstore celebrating its 50th milestone

On Monday, June 3rd, just before the annual meeting of Les Amis du Plein Air, there was a presentation of $25,000 each to the Highland ATV Club, La Mine de Plâtre/Gypsum Mine, Conseil Économique de Chéticamp, and to Chéticamp Search & Rescue. Photo left to right: Roy Aucoin, Chris Bellemore, Denise Chiasson, and Melanie Bourgeois accepting this generous donation from the vice president, Harvey Bourgeois.


  June 12, 2024

-by Rosie Aucoin-Grace
    Les Amis du Plein Air is a non-profit association working in co-operation with Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It is an independent association governed by an elected board of directors from local communities. Les Amis was established in 1974, as an outdoor club promoting many kinds of wilderness recreational activities. In 1981, a cooperating relationship began with the park, thus becoming one of the first National Park Co-operating Associations.
    The goals of Les Amis are to promote recreational and educational experiences and to be involved in the development and promotion of the park’s values and activities. More specifically, the association’s objectives are:
– To conduct, promote, and coordinate outdoor recreation activities with Cape Breton Highlands National Park for the protection and enjoyment of its natural resources.
– To provide recreational skill development programs.
– To supplement the park’s interpretation and visitor services.
– To promote and organize special events compatible with the park’s natural environment.
– To operate a nature bookstore within the park and to develop publications about northern Cape Breton.
– To promote and enhance tourism in the park and surrounding communities.
– To promote better relationships between the park and local communities.
    Just to give you a historical overview, from 1974-1981, Les Amis du Plein Air was basically an outdoor club promoting many kinds of wilderness recreational activities such as hiking, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing. Some of the key people in the beginning worth mentioning were: Réné Aucoin, Jacques Pleau, who at the time was a naturalist at the park, Priscille Maillet, and the late Alfred Aucoin. The early years were meager. Réné Aucoin had a small space at the entrance to the former exhibit area of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park - Chéticamp Visitor Centre where he sold books, which was the beginning of Les Amis Nature Bookstore. He also had Cross Country Ski rentals during the winter months. At that time, there was ample snow conditions and the Park use to groom the ski trails.
    In 1986, there was an expansion of this bookstore and Les Amis grew in membership and sales. Manager Réné Aucoin moved on to other employment and Linda Boudreau was hired as the new manager. She was instrumental in increasing the sales inventory. Due to an unfortunate accident in 1999, Linda was unable to return to work. Sandra LeFort replaced her and retired in 2022. Trina Larade is now the new manager.
    Currently, Les Amis du Plein Air board of directors consists of nine members: Harvey Bourgeois, André Bourgeois, Denise Poirier, Dan Routhier, Denise Bourgeois, Grant Parnell, Jillian Baker, Jimmy Pedersen, Roman Buchhofer, and park representatives Matthew Cook and Andrea Cote. The bookstore staff is Trina Larade (manager), Jeannine Deveau, Paulette Poirier, and Paula Deveau.
    Over the years, there have been numerous activities sponsored by Les Amis. To name a few: the Acadian Scottish Concerts during the summer months, ski loppets, nature walks in the park, followed by a meal and entertainment in a kitchen shelter various times of the year, hosting an afternoon for Les Mi-Carêmes as part of the annual Mi-Carême week festivities, purchase of some playground equipment in the Chéticamp campground, supplies firewood/ice to campers and more. They also host the annual Terry Fox Run, which takes place on a hiking trail in the park. Last summer, Les Amis du Plein Air and La Société Saint-Pierre sponsored a series of concerts in the Interpretation building at the new Mkwesaqtuk/Cap-Rouge campground in the park. These Acadian soirées featuring local talent were so well received by visitors and residents of nearby communities; a decision was made to continue this activity throughout this season.
     One of the major projects was the upgrading and further development of four hiking trails in the park, the Skyline Trail, Le Buttereau Trail, Jack Pine Trail, and the Coastal Trail. Interpretive panels tell the story of the area and its history. Most recently, a new look and renovations to the bookstore, signage to be placed at La Bloc for a kayak launch and a new slide for the Chéticamp playground.
     One of the main attractions offered by this association, is Les Amis du Plein Air – Le Nique Librairie nature Bookstore in the Chéticamp Visitor Centre at Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The largest nature bookstore in Atlantic Canada, it offers a wide variety of French and English books including hiking guides, audubon and Peterson, Nova Scotia and Cape Breton historical publications, children’s books, cookbooks, unique gift ideas, and so much more. As well, they carry Parks Canada merchandise such as: t-shirts, hats, mugs, etc. They also sell Smartwool socks, WATUKO headgear, clothing, binoculars, hiking poles, etc. They also publish material related to the park and local area, such as maps, a checklist of birds, Le Cap Rouge book by Réjean Aucoin and The Cabot Trail 1932-1992 by Terry MacLean and Judy McMaster. Open seven days a week, they offer high-quality products and warm hospitality to all.
    On Monday, June 3rd, just before the annual meeting of Les Amis du Plein Air, there was a presentation of $25,000 each to the Highland ATV Club, La Mine de Plâtre/Gypsum Mine (towards a new washroom), Conseil Économique de Chéticamp (to maintain the boardwalk) and to the Chéticamp Search & Rescue to help keep their services available.
     Vice president, Harvey Bourgeois, spoke about this donation: “In the past, we have shared profits mostly within the park. We stand well for a small organization and decided to distribute some of the profits outside of the park during our 50th year. In the future, we will continue to contribute towards park projects.” He added, “The success of our boutique and organization is only possible with the dedication of our staff, board of directors, and other volunteers who support our association.”
    Les Amis du Plein Air has approximately 218 lifetime members. Anyone interested in joining this association can do so by dropping in at the bookstore or by contacting personnel of the bookstore at 902-224-3814. Memberships costs $10 per person and members get a 15 per cent discount on purchases made in the bookstore.
    A huge congratulations to Les Amis du Plein Air on 50 years of success!


 



 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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