Businesses near Middle River still impacted by Cabot Trail washout

·2 min read
Nova Scotia Public Works has patched parts of the West Side Middle River Road this spring, but the detour is still crumbling in places, affecting motorists and businesses that support them. (Matthew Moore/CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia Public Works has patched parts of the West Side Middle River Road this spring, but the detour is still crumbling in places, affecting motorists and businesses that support them. (Matthew Moore/CBC - image credit)

It has been one up and one down for two businesses in Middle River, N.S., after a fall storm washed out a bridge on Cape Breton's famous Cabot Trail.

Kevin Simpson's TireCraft service station is on West Side Middle River Road, which is paved, but has crumbled under the weight of heavy traffic.

That's because it has been used as a detour ever since the Gold Brook bridge on the Cabot Trail washed out in November.

Area roads were never in great shape to begin with, but they have worsened. Business is booming, Simpson said.

"Lots of flat tires and bent rims, suspension parts wore out before they're supposed to be wore out," he said during a brief break while a steady stream of vehicles rolled in and out of the shop. "Just a lot of heavy wear and tear on the rigs, the roads are so rough."

Jim MacKenzie runs MacKenzie Motorsports, a motorcycle repair shop on the Cabot Trail in Middle River, on a portion of the road that is open only to local traffic.

Matthew Moore/CBC
Matthew Moore/CBC

He said riders have mostly avoided the area since the washout, because the detour is not safe.

"My big area is Margaree, Chéticamp [and] Inverness and they've started to detour down the Lake Ainslie side, so I've missed that amount of customer base that normally would come through here," MacKenzie said.

The road had been cratered over the winter and the province has patched the detour in places, but MacKenzie said bikers are still going elsewhere.

"They tend not to ride on roads like that," he said.

"They will find a smoother route, because if you break a wheel on your car, well, it's an inconvenience, but if you break a wheel on a motorcycle, it injures you pretty good."

MacKenzie said his business is down about 60 per cent and it doesn't look like it will pick up this summer.

"I've been here for 33 years and if I didn't have that longevity, it would be pretty difficult to keep flipping the open sign," he said.

Matthew Moore/CBC
Matthew Moore/CBC

MacKenzie and Simpson said tourism along that stretch of the Cabot Trail is likely to be down this summer because of the roads.

Even though business has picked up at Simpson's service station, he would rather see the roads repaired as soon as possible.

Nova Scotia Public Works says the West Side Middle River Road is expected to be fully repaired by August.

A temporary bridge on the Cabot Trail should be open to traffic by the end of that month and a new, permanent bridge is expected to be built in two to three years.

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