For the first time in five years, the residents of Black Tickle, N.L., will have a gas station in their community.
In the Labrador community — accessible only by plane or ferry — a social enterprise project is aiming to ensure people don't have to worry about heating their homes this winter. Tanks and pumps have been connected for a new mobile gas station.
"It is an exciting time for Black Tickle," said Joseph Keefe, chair of Black Tickle's local service district.
The Woodward Group of Companies closed the only gas depot in town in 2016 because it was losing money. Since then gas has been brought to the community in tanks but the tanks ran out in some winters.
The closure was the most recent in a string of setbacks for the community, following the local seafood processing plant closure. There have also been struggles with the water supply, with residents forced to get water for their homes from a local treatment plant.
The community has kept a small amount of gas on hand for people to but in drums but it hasn't been enough, Keefe said. People have also been travelling to Cartwright, about 85 kilometres away, to fuel up, so people are "really excited" about the new station, said Keefe.
"They can't wait to go to the gas station," he said. "It's going to be a big burden lifted off their shoulders."
The gas station is being opened via a partnership involving Black Tickle, the NunatuKavut community council, the provincial government, and Indigrow, an Indigenous Atlantic Canada company that helps build Indigenous businesses by providing training and expertise.
There are two phases to the social enterprise gas station project. It will start this winter without a set location, moving between a couple places on designated days until the permanent place is built up in the spring. The location will be decided by several factors, including snow clearing and community need.
"It's not going to be sort of your traditional gas and convenience store until Phase 2, which is going to come in the spring," said Rich Lewis, founder and president of Indigrow, which has been leading the initiative.
In the spring, they'll be able to do the actual site itself and have a permanent location. It will have a store, but Lewis said they'll be careful to not take customers from existing stores in town.
"We understand the importance of business in any community or town, but in a community the size of Black Tickle, where there's only 85 people, we want to limit competitive impacts as much as possible," Lewis said.
The next step is getting fuel in the tanks. Lewis said he expects that to happen for both gas and diesel by Nov. 20, and the station will hopefully be operational by the end of the month.