Cape Breton Park staff repair infrastructure damage left by Mother Nature

SYDNEY — As Mother Nature has launched several unprecedented attacks on assets in Cape Breton Highlands National Park this year, staff are working feverishly to repair and patch holes left by storm damage. .

Robbie Gourd, asset manager for the Cape Breton field unit, said this year’s rain and snowstorms have caused multi-million dollar damage.

“While to some it may seem like we’re slow to get out of the gate, we need to put our work first, with safety being a primary consideration,” said Gourd, whose responsibilities span all federal park facilities. of the island.

As for the Highlands Park, damage to roads, beaches, trails and other infrastructure over the winter continues to send maintenance from job to job. .

Heavy rain in February that dumped over 270mm of water resulted in highway washouts that required immediate repairs.

Gourd said park officials are fully aware that in such cases immediate action is needed because the park’s road network is also the same that others use to get to work, to the hospital or to access at service centers.

He said the Broad Cove washout took three weeks to repair during which some hospital workers had to be transported to work by helicopter brought in by the province.

Gourd said with the snow not melting in the park until late April or early May, it was a massive job to get the road back into service, including paving in the winter.

WINTER CLEANING

He said the North Mountain washout was another challenge and work on that road should now be complete by the end of July.

His comment comes in response to expressions of concern from residents that the park’s facilities and attractions are falling apart.

Gourd said repairs have also been completed in Black Brook and the access road to North Bay Beach has also been improved.

Damage to the road leading to Mary Ann Falls is expected to be repaired this year, but as one of the park’s oldest attractions, opened in 1936, the road has always been difficult to maintain.

He said winter conditions are less than ideal for some repair work, which means some tasks need to be done during peak tourism months.

“To say that Mother Nature has caused unprecedented challenges and damage would be an understatement,” Gourd said.

Regarding storm surge damage to Ingonish Beach, Gourd said staff are working with researchers at Dalhousie University to study the effects of wave action on the shore.

He said there was a time when crews pushed sand onto the shore, but such a practice has been discontinued over fears it may have also contributed to the problem.

NEW FACILITIES

He said the toilet and shower building, damaged by arson, was being replaced. These buildings also housed a canteen, but Gourd said there were plans to provide such a service through a locally operated food truck or similar operation.

“We are certainly doing the best we can with the resources we have,” he said.

Gourd, while appreciating community and visitor feedback, urged all park visitors to participate in the COASTIE program.

He said from observation decks established at several observation sites, users are encouraged to take photos of the shoreline and then upload them to a Parks Canada site to help with erosion monitoring. coastal.

The Highlands Park was the first national park established in the Atlantic Provinces. It spans two Cape Breton counties (Victoria and Inverness) and covers an area of ​​948 square kilometers (366 square miles) and is accentuated by some 26 hiking trails, rugged coastlines, majestic mountain views, beaches and a wide range of wildlife.

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