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Pictou gym users bemoan its demise

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PICTOU — Former members of a defunct gym are downcast that it has closed and its equipment has been sold.

Ralph Heighton and Alan Jankov were among those who utilized the gym and were part of a group that tried to save it.

However, Kevin O’Brien, who rented the space and operated the gym, recently sold the equipment before that could happen.

“We were working on a plan to put together a non-profit (organization),” Heighton said. “It’s more or less a moot point. It’s something we can’t put anywhere. It’s pretty hard to find.”

O’Brien said he had to move the gym operation from its location on the lower level of the former school on Ross Street by the end of July, which complicated the process of trying to save it. The equipment was removed last Saturday.

He said. “I knew this would be our last summer. It’s something that won’t come back. I hope I’m wrong. There are a lot of people who are going to drive to New Glasgow. I really feel sorry for those folks.”

Heighton estimated between 50 and 60 people were regular members and he described the equipment as aging but serviceable.

“It was old but it was pretty good equipment and people used it,” he said.

Word that the gym equipment was sold was confirmed by group member Ken Paquet on July 8 at the committee of town council. He said the sale occurred before the group could effectively intervene.

Heighton noted a previous occasion when the gym was saved from closing.

“We didn’t have the luxury of time, only a couple of weeks,” Heighton said.

Heighton and Jankov shared the view that the gym was a welcome option for residents of West Pictou.

“It’s a tremendous loss for us and a major loss for the town of Pictou,” Jankov said.

O’Brien said he contacted Mayor Jim Ryan in the spring about taking over the gym but was told there was no money in this year’s budget for that.

“I did offer the town to take all the equipment if it was in the budget next year,” he said. “I was hoping the town would take it over.”

Ryan said the town tried to help the group purchase the equipment and relocate the gym. He acknowledged the matter was complicated by the gym operation having to move.

“It’s disappointing for some,” he said. “The town wasn’t interested in taking over the gym. It would have meant finding space as well. Ideally we’d have liked an independent group with a strong business plan to keep the gym in town.”