By Richard Bell
As he looked around the almost completed HRM building in Musquodoboit Harbour, Community Recreation Coordinator Doug Murphy could barely contain his excitement.
“Oh my gosh! The building is beautiful, it’s warm, it’s exciting to see the type of facility HRM has made for this community,” Murphy said. “The building has so many possibilities. I didn’t know if I could see it happen in my career. And now we’re almost there, just a couple of weeks from a grand opening. Except for the walls, what we’ve got is a brand new facility.”
Murphy is in his 20th year with HRM Recreation. He’s as local as can be, having been born in Twin Oaks Hospital, attended Lakeview Elementary, Gaetz Brook Junior High, and Eastern Shore District High. He lives in Chezzetcook now, only 10 minutes away from his job.
Murphy started working in Musquodoboit Harbour on a coop program while he was still studying at Dalhousie. “I’ve been lucky to stay in this community and build relationships. It’s a wonderful community to work in. The people are phenomenal. The community really deserves this.”
What ended up as a $1 million project started very small, with a proposed $60,000 expenditure to refurbish the frayed walls of the recreation centre. But there were lots of other problems. Heating and cooling was inconsistent, natural light was scarce, there was no place to prepare food, and employees in some offices would have to interrupt classes in progress just to get to the bathrooms.
Meanwhile, there was also some money in the budget for improvements in the library. Someone in HRM noticed that potential for taking on the entire building, and two years ago, the city hired the architect Jane Abbott (of Abbott Brown Architects) to do a complete redesign within the existing walls.
Abbott’s design vastly increases the amount of natural light throughout the building. The new function room on the northeast corner has glass walls on two sides; the library’s program room now has natural light; and both the library and the fitness room look out on the green, woody back yard.
Murphy said that he was not aware of any other HRM facility where the library and recreation departments were working out of the same space. “We’re in an open space,” Murphy said. “Everyone will come in the front doors to the front desk, where we will share staffing during the hours when both Rec and the Library are open. And even when the library is closed, the shelves with books on hold will be in the lobby, with self-check-out machines. And the photocopier and the printer will be in the lobby.” There are also six Wi-Fi drops around the building to provide strong Wi-Fi connections.
The kitchen area is an exciting new addition to the building that will support serving food at community events, provide a place for staff or the public to eat, and host cooking classes for kids and adults.
And unlike the old building, every room will now be a separate heating-and-cooling zone, correcting one of the old facility’s more serious flaws.
In addition to more natural light, the fitness center now has a rubberized floor that will feel much warmer to users than the former PVC tile over concrete, as well as providing more protection for peoples’ joints. Users will come in through the main door, and sign in at a desk in the gym. For the first time, clients will be able to pay for memberships with credit and debit cards, instead of cash or check.
The gym opened on January 10. The grand opening for the whole building, including the library with its new shelves, is scheduled for January 27 starting at 10 AM. The Recreation Centre and the Library will be offering refreshments, local entertainment, and other activities in the new community hub.