Unpassable section of Cape Breton highway frustrates business owner

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A one-kilometre section of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton that has been closed since Friday due to washouts is making daily life harder for the people and businesses who rely on it.

Parks Canada crews have been working to open one lane of traffic since the highway washed out on Friday on the side of North Mountain in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

As of Tuesday afternoon, barricades remained up at the park entrances in Pleasant Bay and Big Interval.

Because the highway is closed to vehicles, drivers now have to make a nearly four-hour detour, causing problems for people trying to visit places close to the closure.

George Burton, owner of Maple Ridge Cabins in Dingwall, NS, said the closure has not been good for business.

A section of the washed out road at North Mountain in Cape Breton. (Parks Canada)

He said his all-season cabins were booked up over the weekend and all his guests made it, but not without hiccups.

“Some of them came as far as the North Mountain, and because the park had no signage up at the time, they ended up driving an extra three and a half hours,” said Burton.

Burton said customers visiting the cabins are finding the highway shutdown a nuisance. Some have had to cancel other plans they had booked for their trip.

“A lot of our clients that we get, they like to go skiing up on the top of the North Mountain. So now that [the road is] closed, they can’t get up there,” said Burton, adding that some clients tried going to North Highlands Nordic Ski Club instead, but they were booked up.

Burton said it’s not only his business that is being affected, but anyone who lives near the stretch of highway, since they are now forced to drive hours extra to get to some communities — such as Cheticamp — for things like sports.

One lane to open soon

Parks Canada has said they understand how difficult the closure is for the people living nearby.

“That’s something that we really feel for the community members,” Robie Gourd, asset manager with Parks Canada, told Information Morning Cape Breton.

“We are concerned about the communities of Pleasant Bay and Cape North and everybody in the area. Trying to get through [the highway] has always been a challenge this time of year.”

Although Parks Canada doesn’t have an exact date for the road to be open, the timeline is clearer than it was only a few days ago.

Gourd said it will take seven to 10 days of good weather to get the highway open to one lane of traffic.

“And that’s something that’s going to be … one lane of traffic lights with cones and likely jersey barriers of some sort,” said Gourd.

Gourd said the section will likely be down to one lane until the spring, when crews will finally be able to get two lanes open again.

He added work will still need to be done after the highway is open to figure out permanent solutions and ensure washouts do not happen again.

Parks Canada also said people can check road conditions by calling 511 or by visiting 511.gov.ns.ca.


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