Nova Scotia

Mira River man says province should be fair about maintaining private roads

Dave Butler put in a freedom of information request asking the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation how many private roads it maintains and got back a list — by county and road name — of 348 private roads totalling 96 kilometres.

Freedom of information request shows province does some form of work on 348 private roads, but not his

Dave Butler says the government stopped maintaining his private road in the 1960s, but still maintains others, and he calls that discrimination. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

When Dave Butler asked the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation to run a grader over his rural road, he was told the province does not maintain private roads, but a freedom of information request shows otherwise.

Butler's home is on the Mira River at the end of Bungalow Lane in the small community of Huntington, southwest of Marion Bridge.

Bungalow Lane is not much more than a dirt road about 400 metres long, with seven seasonal properties and three permanent residences using it for access.

Butler said the road is also used by people looking for a boat launch on the Mira and it used to be maintained by the province.

"The last time I saw a grader on this road, and I might be off by a year, was in 1963 or '64," Butler said. "I'd just started driving and I remember there was a grader here from the Nova Scotia Department of Highways."

Bungalow Lane is getting rough again, so Butler called the minister of transportation's office to see if the province would send a grader down the road.

Freedom of information request

"I was put in contact with supposedly his representative in this area and when I spoke to her, she said, 'We do not maintain private roads,'" Butler said.

Suspecting otherwise, Butler put in a freedom of information request. Butler asked the government, "How many private roads in Nova Scotia are maintained by the Department of Transportation?"

It revealed a list — by county and road name — of 348 private roads totalling 96 kilometres that are maintained by the province.

"It was more that the number astounded me, rather than the location of them," he said.

The results show nearly 14 kilometres of the total are in Cape Breton County.

Butler says the province should smooth out the potholes and rocky ruts on Bungalow Lane, which leads to 10 private properties and a public boat launch. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Some are under 100 metres long, many are between 100 and 900 metres, and three are longer.

Clyde Allen Road in Halifax is exactly one kilometre long, Murphy Lake Drive in Kings County is 1.36 kilometres and Myers Loop in Guysborough is 3.13 kilometres.

According to the department's tally:

  • 10.36 kilometres of private roads are maintained by the province in the western district;
  • 19.35 kilometres are in central, which includes Halifax and Hants counties;
  • 14.02 kilometres are in the northern district; and
  • 52.09 kilometres are in the eastern district.

The list shows Antigonish County has the most, with just over 23 kilometres of private roads maintained by the province.

Paying taxes for no services

Butler thinks the province maintained Bungalow Lane years ago and it should do so again.

"We get absolutely nothing for our tax dollar," he said.

"The only service we get is the Marion Bridge volunteer fire department, God bless them, and we all contribute to that.

"For the thousands of dollars that we pay in property tax, I don't think asking a grader once a year for an hour's work is too much."

The Transportation Department declined to provide anyone for an interview.

Closer to the Mira River, Bungalow Lane becomes a rocky, rutted path through the woods that leads to several private properties and a public boat launch. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

In an email, it said the 96 kilometres listed in the freedom of information request "includes many short sections of road. We provide minimal service for these roads such as plowing. We do not maintain these sections of road."

Steve Parsons, councillor for Cape Breton Regional Municipality's District 7, said the province's policy is inconsistent and "very disappointing."

"To do some private roads and not others is not fair, because everybody is paying taxes and for that, they deserve some services.

"If you're going to do private roads, you need to do all of them or none of them, because it's not fair to people who decide to build on a private road and pay taxes on a private road."

Parsons also said provincial graders are travelling past Bungalow Lane on Grand Mira North Road, so they should be able to pull off and work on a short stretch.

It might also make economic sense, he said.

"To come down a provincial road and not spin off to a private driveway, which is probably 500 metres, to me is not a big deal to do, so I don't know why the department is taking such a hard stand on these private roads," Parsons said.

"Keeping a road upgraded, keeping a road safe, will promote purchases of land and people building (on the roads)."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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