The owners of the French River Trading Post are hoping new signage along Highway 69 will be installed before the start of their busy season during the May long weekend, but they aren’t holding their breath.
Tracey Pearce, co-owner of the French River Trading Post, said she is frustrated with responses she got from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) telling her it will be at least another four weeks before any road signs will be installed on the recently finished new stretch of four-laned highway.
The MTO finished the section of Highway 69 near the trading post in the fall last year. The new lanes extend north from Highway 522 to north of Highway 607. The project included two new interchanges, and while northbound travellers can see the trading post off the highway, southbound drivers can’t.
“Right now, there are no signs anywhere at the new Highway 69 indicating where any of the businesses are in the area,” said Pearce. “I’ve been told it’s going to be at least another four weeks before we can get our billboards up on the new highway. It is not acceptable to us. We’re getting a little frustrated. Our customers are not going to be able to find us.”
The MTO told Pearce in an email they have started taking inventory of the current signs, but there is more work that needs to be done before new signage locations can be delegated.
Pearce said she has been dealing with this situation for more than a month. “They've had a long time to get everything together."
Most people in Northern Ontario are familiar with the French River Trading Post and know where it is located. Prior to the expansion of Highway 69, motorists could just pull into the parking lot. Now, they have to exit via a ramp in order to get to the trading post.
“People are still finding us, and we’re fine for the most part, but we’re upset because our customers are upset,” Pearce said.
Technology isn’t really helping tourists find the trading post any better, either, she said.
“Those travelling south with GPS, it is taking them to the wrong exit, and they are having to go all the way down to the Pickerel River exit, and then having to come back,” Pearce said.
The Trading Post is gearing up for its first full season since the pandemic started in 2020, said Pearce.
For the past two years, Pearce has had to postpone opening for two months. It normally opens in March, she said, but due to the pandemic and lockdowns, “we weren’t able to open until May.
“Thankfully, even during COVID-19, we ran really successful seasons."
The French River Trading Post has been in operation for 66 years.
“We have become a Northern Ontario and Canadian landmark, a tradition and destination for thousands of tourists,” said Pearce. “We are extremely disappointed in the response of the MTO in this matter. We are doing everything we can to educate our customers.”
The four-laning is part of a project to widen 152 kilometres of highway between Sudbury and Parry Sound. Another 68 kilometres of highway between French River and Parry Sound has yet to be completed. That section was in the engineering and property acquisition phase in December.
Aaron Pickard is a court and general assignment reporter at Sudbury.com.