There has been a one-lane reduction on Captain Gillis Bridge on Route 19 in Inverness County for the past two years.

Transportation, tourism, business, and recreation infrastructure in Inverness County is getting some love these days, thanks to projects, plans and announcements from various levels of government.

The provincial government’s capital plan, released late last month, announced a number of measures for roads and bridges in the county.

Among the transportation projects planned for 2020-2021 are access improvements on Highway 105 at Route 252 in Waycobah.

On Trunk 19, there will be paving taking place on 0.4 kilometres of Blackstone Road to the Church Road intersection. And 6.3 kilometres on Portage Road easterly from Orangedale Road will see new asphalt. There will be work done to 2.9 kilometres on Coady Road, from Trunk 30 southerly, four kilometres from the Long Stretch Road southerly to 1.2 kilometres south of Hatcher Road, on the Crandall Road, and finally five kilometres from Southside River Denys Road westerly to Marble Mountain Road. Another 7.8 kilometres from the Church Road northerly 100 metres to the Inverness Beach Village Road will be paved.

Nelson Bridge on East Big Intervale Road, Captain Gillis Bridge on Trunk 19 and the MacLean Truss Bridge on North Side River River Denys Road are all set to receive upgrades.

As for recently completed projects, 5.9 kilometres on Portage Road east of Orangedale Road easterly to Route 223 was paved.

Then on March 3, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) announced it will provide $999,170, through the Innovative Communities Fund, to support the municipality with various infrastructure enhancements.

Inverness Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie said a municipally-led project focusing on signature spaces and signage will go a long way to developing key attractions in communities across the county.

The project is phase one and will be parceled out over three years, building on the Canada’s Musical Coast brand. Additional funding comes from the provincial government ($398,500) and the municipality and community groups ($477,153).

Less than 48 hours after the announcement, Inverness director of recreation and tourism, Donna MacDonald, gave council an update on how the money will be spent.

MacDonald said the goal is to install advanced warning signage and wayfinding signage throughout the county for harbours and beaches, by partnering with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR), community development associations, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans – Small Craft Harbours, and local harbour authorities.

MacDonald said residents of Whycocomagh, Judique, and Margaree will all see a streetscape program in their areas, which included signage developments (in Judique), branding and signage developments (in Margaree), and façade work (in Whycocomagh). The Cheticamp boardwalk will have work done to it, and Cabot Trail Comfort Centres are being worked on in Margaree Forks and Pleasant Bay. There are also projects focused on the Gypsum Mine Trails and the Inverness County Trails Strategy are in the works.

A growth strategy is being worked on for the community of Inverness and a beautification project is slated for Mabou.

During the same regular monthly meeting of Inverness Municipal Council on March 5, the Al MacInnis Sports Centre took a significant step toward achieving $150,000 worth of upgrades to its ice plant operation after the municipality pledged $48,000 in funding.

Lloyd MacDonald, president of the Port Hood and District Recreation Association (PHDRA) told council two plant compressors, an electrical panel, a plate heat exchanger, and pressure leak valves all have to be replaced.

Because of the scale of the project, MacDonald said it was structured so that each level of government could kick-in with one-third of the funding, along with community fundraising.

Appearing with MacDonald before council were Brian MacInnis, president of the Cape Breton West Major Midget Islanders; Damian MacInnis, a PHDRA board member; and Angie MacEachern and Brenda VanZutphen, members of the Cape Breton West Minor Hockey Association.

MacInnis noted that while the rink is located in Port Hood, its impact reaches across the municipality, as elite-level players have gone on to success in the Quebec Major Junior league and play professionally. With that, a team like the Cape Breton West Islanders draws players from throughout the county. The same can be said of minor hockey teams.

In 2017, he noted, the Major Midget Islanders drew the attention of hockey fans from coast-to-coast-to-coast by winning the Telus Cup in 2017. MacInnis said this victory “put the Cape Breton West area on the national stage.”

In addition to the Islanders, the rink is home to the Dalbrae Dragons high school hockey team and over 500 minor hockey players.

Those on council who once expressed skepticism of the project seemed impressed with MacDonald’s review of finances and MacInnis’ comments on the county-wide impact of the centre.

Even news that a project to have a sidewalk extending from Whycocomagh to We’koqma’q First Nation will not take place as soon as hoped, was positive.

Noting that the project is still in the works, Melanie Beaton, the special projects facilitator for Inverness County, said municipal staff is working with a consultant to design the sidewalk, and the design will be completed in coordination with Darren Blundon of the DTIR.

Following discussions with We’koqma’q First Nation, the cost, design and financing options will be brought to council for review, then if all goes according to plan, a public meeting will be scheduled, Beaton noted.

If there is support from the community, she said, council can then make a motion to commit the design and cost to the DTIR for tender.

Beaton said the idea is to have construction take place at the same time as the construction of the Whycocomagh roundabout, which would mean some cost-savings, as a construction company will already be there. She said the start date has been moved to September, with a completion date of October.

Beaton noted the project should be finished in October, should everything go properly. The tender deadline is May 8.

Despite the delays, these two neighbouring communities will inevitably be connected with a sidewalk by the fall, this while the Al MacInnis Sports Centre gets much needed upgrades, communities are spruced up, helpful tourism signage pops up around the county, and roads and bridges finally get the attention they deserve.

This isn’t all good news. Much of the transportation infrastructure was left to worsen over time, without regular maintenance, the funding for the facility in Port Hood came after some objections from councillors, and others wonder whether signage should be a priority for the tourism industry.

Those are valid points, and worth considering, but the fact is that the federal, provincial and municipal governments have finally opened their wallets, and Inverness County will benefit.