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Victoria County officials take trip to explore potential tree walk designs

By Evan Taylor Sep 26, 2023 | 3:41 PM

A rendering of what the proposed tree walk at Cape Smokey would look like. Photo. Cape Smokey Holding

Developers in Ingonish, Nova Scotia, have taken significant strides toward realizing their goal of constructing a tree walk and lookout tower atop Cape Smokey. This advancement comes after a fact-finding mission to the Czech Republic by Victoria County officials.

A delegation comprising representatives from the municipal office, the planning commission, and the local economic development agency recently embarked on an eight-day excursion through Europe. Their primary objective was to engage with tree walk architects and local government officials to gain insights into the implications of such attractions on planning regulations and tourism.

In recent years, Destination Cape Smokey has undergone substantial transformations. These include the rejuvenation of the ski hill, the introduction of a year-round gondola, and the ongoing construction of accommodations. Victoria County Warden Bruce Morrison anticipates that the addition of a tree walk could potentially unlock millions of dollars in further development for Ingonish.

The developers had faced delays in realizing their vision due to the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, obtaining a building permit for the lookout tower proved challenging, partly due to the absence of specific building code provisions addressing such a structure.

Tree walks are elevated walkways that guide visitors through a forest to a tower that offers panoramic views above the tree canopy. While a building permit has been secured for the tree walk itself, questions arose, particularly concerning fire safety in relation to the tower.

Hence, the decision to venture to the Czech Republic, a region where similar attractions have successfully revitalized tourism in small communities. The firsthand experience allowed the delegation to gain invaluable insights into the practical aspects of these attractions, which couldn’t be fully comprehended from drawings alone.

The proposed site for this attraction in Ingonish, atop the ski hill, promises to provide visitors with breathtaking vistas of the Cape Breton highlands and the Atlantic Ocean.

Officials involved in the fact-finding mission have expressed their enthusiasm for the project. They believe that the introduction of tree walks could have a transformative effect on Ingonish, akin to the impact they have had in the Czech Republic.

The expenses for the European trip were covered by a combination of funding sources. The planning commission bore the costs for two employees, while Victoria County funded two and a half employees. Additionally, the Cape Breton Partnership contributed half of the travel costs for the county’s economic development officer. The county’s chief administrative officer and tourism director were also part of the delegation.

While the $12,000 price tag for the trip did raise objections from some constituents, Morrison remains optimistic about the potential return on investment. He believes that the knowledge gained from the trip will prove invaluable as they work towards realizing the project and unlocking its economic potential.