Local activists get results on roadwork

By Lois Ann Dort    

On some rural roads around the province, one might think about applying for danger pay for travelling on them. While many locals complain bitterly about the state of secondary roads, some have found a path that leads to progress and better roads for all.

Three years ago people living on Highway 316, which runs along the eastern shore from Port Felix through New Harbour, Goldboro, and Cross Roads Country Harbour connecting with the Trans Canada Highway outside of Antigonish, had had enough. Repair bills were mounting and nothing was being done, or was scheduled to be done, on the road which they had to travel in order to do the most basic tasks such as buy groceries or visit the doctor. Resident Dewaine Gillie started a Facebook group, Highway 316 Advocacy, to kick off local activism on the issue.

Gillie and his wife Ruth toured Highway 316 on several occasions and took photographs of the most egregious road deterioration. Locals posted signage along the highway, highlighting the road’s condition and asking the government to take action. They held public meetings and received coverage of the issue from The Journal.

It was public meetings and input from Rob Carter, proprietor of Lost Shores, that gave the local activists the added direction they needed to access the channels of government.

Ruth Gillie said in an online interview, “With Rob’s help we had a professional and courteous meeting with Lloyd Hines (the MLA representing the area). He was attentive, very helpful, and promised to do what he could to help us achieve our goals. That was when the need for a petition was cemented.”

With petition guidelines in hand, the Highway 316 Advocacy group set out to acquire 2000 signatures before the fall 2015 sitting of the Legislature. “My husband actually went door to door from one end of the 316 to the other securing signatures. Copies were left in every strategic location imaginable along the route. Tourists were approached and willingly signed. Family and friends near and far were contacted and signatures received,” said Gillie.

The petition was presented to MLA Hines’ office in November of 2015. Work on many sections of Highway 316 began not long after, including a new, and much needed, bridge in Seal Harbour.

In other instances the work has meant patches, not the new road construction locals had hoped for. But for the time being the patches are making driving the 316 less of an off-road sporting event and more of a leisurely drive through the country.

The experience shows that local activism can get results -- but it takes perseverance and legwork. Highway 316 motorists are pleased with the results.