Cape Smokey tree walk slated to open this summer
'It's going to have an amazing impact on Victoria County and Ingonish as a whole,' says deputy warden
The owners of a Cape Breton ski hill are moving ahead with plans to construct an observation tower in Ingonish, N.S.
A "tree walk" will be built at Cape Smokey to offer a bird's-eye view of the landscape around Ingonish harbour.
The proposal will feature a tower stretching seven storeys, while an attached walkway will stand one storey.
"We started this project with great ambition, which we still have and we're carrying forward," said Martin Kejval, development director for Cape Smokey Holding Ltd.
The pandemic delayed last year's construction season. The project is still slated to open on July 1.
The tree walk attraction is expected to be the first of its kind in North America.
A group of Czech businessmen purchased the property from the province in the summer of 2019.
Since that time, Kejval said engineering work and the tree walk's structural foundation have been completed.
Right now, project partners are finalizing orders for the necessary Douglas fir wood and steel.
"The COVID-19 pandemic made a lot of things extremely difficult in terms of getting workers in and out and getting materials here, and travel in general," Kejval said.
"We are persistent with going forward with our original schedule."
Currently, the group is working to secure a building permit for the tree walk's iconic tower.
An attached walkway will be constructed 15 metres off the ground. Both features of the structure will be made accessible to wheelchair users and parents with strollers.
"From both of the points, you will be seeing beautiful views of the Ingonish area," said Kejval. "And the views here stunning — none of the photographs do it justice."
Although a great deal of the construction progress is dependent on the weather, Kejval said a new lodge featuring a microbrewery for the ski hill is expected by late fall.
Warden says project having big economic impact
Larry Dauphinee, deputy warden for Victoria County, said the tree walk will transform Ingonish into a four-season destination.
Last year, the ski hill began attracting crowds of people interested in skiing, snowboarding and winter tubing.
"When they are up and running with their full facilities, it's going to have an amazing impact on Victoria County and Ingonish as a whole," Dauphinee said.
Although summers in Ingonish are always popular for tourists, Dauphinee said the rest of the year can be a struggle for businesses and tourism operators.
He said the proposal is already having a major economic impact.
"We have a lot of businesses in the area looking at expanding," he said.
"We have a lot of new businesses being looked at, so the impact is going to be huge."
In anticipation of the redevelopment of the ski hill, the province spent $11 million on three kilometres of roadway on the south side of Cape Smokey.
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