Garnet Misner loves his home on North Mountain. On northern slopes overlooking the Bay of Fundy, that home of his is accessed by driving up, down and then back up the green mountain heights that gird the northern extremity of Kings County.
“It’s gorgeous,” Misner said July 8, from his home. “With the temperature up here, no wonder there’s heavy traffic in the summer. It’s about eight to ten degrees cooler than in the Valley.”
What he doesn’t love, however, is the lack of services he gets out there – especially services associated with the secondary road leading there.
“There’s no accountability,” Misner said, giving a representative of Kings County News and the author of this piece a ride in his car, along the very gravel roadway he takes issue with.
“This, on some level is what everyone who lives on a secondary road has to deal with,” Misner said.
The tour Misner provided put the challenges of living in one of the more rugged corners of rural Nova Scotia into stark relief.
From ditchless roads that only get a grader run over them a couple of times a year to patchy internet service and what Misner sees as an “illogical” relocation of a community mailbox, an entire 0.6 km from its original site, closer to a paved road, there is a lot he takes issue with.
Getting his child to and from school is also something Misner has had to take into his own hands. He noted he had to pay a neighbour to drive his child to a bus stop almost a mile and a half away from his home.
Back in his home office, Misner showed the extent of the erosion and bogginess on the roads leading to his property. The roads, earlier this spring, were depicted with gaping rifts and sinkholes making the steep mountain roads almost impassable.
“From April to the spring breakup, when I go to get groceries or have firewood in the car, it will sink into the road,” Misner said. “Sometimes, I get stuck.”
Sometimes, he noted, he’s had to MacGyver solutions to such a problem, noting he’s often had to stick pieces of that wood and stone into the large ruts so that his car can get traction.
Sometimes, when the boggy roads are really egregious, Misner said he’s put sticks into the road to mark areas where other should avoid driving, because of the danger of sinking. Other times, trucks have been sent to pull out trucks that got stuck, helping to pull out other vehicles.
Often in the spring, Misner noted he has to dig ditches himself, to help divert water from the road.
During the tour of the road leading to his home, one that can be reached at the end of Brow of Mountain Road, Misner indicates the places where he’s taken it upon himself to fix the road. In many spots there are still planks half-buried in the dirt where they were left when the mud dried.
“I have become disappointed with the governments of Kings County, and the federal and provincial governments,” wrote Misner in a letter to Kings County News.
Misner elaborated, noting he feels like everyone he has complained to about this has turned a deaf ear to his plight, offering little in the way of an explanation.
“Nobody is paving secondary roads – it doesn’t matter if they’re Liberal, Conservative or NDP. It’s like they’re trying to force us into the Valley,” Misner said.
While he drives over a washboard-like section of the road, Misner ponders where his tax money is going.
“The gas tax was supposed to go into roads. There is no way that money is going into our roads,” Misner said. “After 25 years, not one cent of that has gone into these roads.
Misner noted the hazards of driving that road are not the only ones he’s worried about, saying, “there’s no way they could get a firetruck out here because of the weight. If they can’t get a firetruck out here, how are they going to put out a fire?”
Many of his problems involve getting to and from his home to begin with.
“In March and early April, I spent on average, two hours a day filling in ruts and sinkholes and digging ditches on my road so I can get out,” Misner wrote.
“Every year, it’s the same story. No money, no money,” Misner said. “I’ve got a list over the years of what every response was.”
That was not the response Misner wanted to hear.
“There is not a bit of maintenance on the roads. They did a yearly grading last week and put down chloride to keep the dust down in spots, but I keep a list of when they do grade. It’s the second time they did it since spring.”
For the rest of the year, navigating the gravel roads north of Centerville is nothing short of a nightmare.
“Just ask some residents here, they’ve broken ball joints and springs in their cars,” Misner said. “Most of us are beating vehicles to pieces just trying to get home. It’s just pathetic.”
Not only is the poor quality of the road leading to his house an inconvenience – it’s affecting his ability to earn a living.
“I’m a roofer by trade, and we like to start the season in the spring before it heats up,” he explained. “I lose four to five weeks of work in the spring because I can’t get out of here then.”
Misner also needs to access more than his house alone. Further up the road, where the maintenance ends, he says he cannot access his own woodlots.
“I can’t get a logging truck up there to haul the wood out, if I want to cut some logs for income,” Misner said.
He isn’t the only one whose livelihood has suffered on account of poor access. He estimates about half of the people living on the mountain on secondary roads are self-employed – and are being forced into the Valley because running a business is increasingly unfeasible.
“One of my neighbours has a trucking company and has been forced into the Waterville area because you can’t beat equipment around on these back roads,” Misner said.
Marla MacInnis, a spokesperson for TIR, wrote to Kings County News, confirming that Brow of Mountain Road has been affected by greater-than-usual erosion and drainage issues this year, triggered by a greater amount of spring runoff than in previous years.
"Staff are monitoring the condition of the road and making repairs as required," MacInnis wrote. "The road has also been identified for future gravel road improvement work."