2024 AGM: MRWA’s Annual Report for 2023


  • MRWA started 2023 without a president, but with a strong board.
  • Our river cleanup, and other cleanups, a big success.
  • Our water quality monitoring program continues into 2nd year at six sites.
  • We submitted extensive feedback to HRM on it’s Draft Regional Plan, and on proposed Housing Accelerator Fund projects.
  • We provided financial support to NS Nature Trust for land acquisitions. This, and the recent Shaw Wilderness expansion, are important steps toward preserving more wildlands within and adjacent to the Watershed.
  • Our Trail Sponsorship program continues with successful renewals.
  • Almost 800hrs of volunteer trailwork in 2023.
  • We opened three kilometers of new trails in 2023: Boulderama, Gutterball, Orange Jelly extension.
  • We were issued a new Letter of Authority for Trails from NS Department of Natural Resources, with clarifications around dog leashing and no motorized uses permitted.
  • New trail funding proposal submitted and awarded in spring 2024.
  • We plan to build and open 1.5km of new trail in Fall 2024.
  • Granite Fondo 2024: bigger than ever!
  • Important organizational transition and succession: We welcomed Angie Gray as new student rep, and say goodbye to longtime board members Kaarin Tae and Lawrence Plug who are not reoffering for 24/25. Succession planning underway.


We started the 2023-2024 year by electing a strong and active board with many members reoffering from the previous year. However, we also started and ended the year without a president in our executive team. MRWA has always had a space reserved for a student rep and this past year we welcomed Angie Gray who is currently a student at NSCC. Angie is continuing in 2024-25, and we look forward to issuing a call for  a JL Ilsley High School rep in September 2024 too.

We hosted our annual River Clean up event this Spring, in partnership with the Wild Outside program, part of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Compared to last year, we had a very strong volunteer turn out and managed to haul lots of litter out of the river. A special thanks to our board member volunteers for helping make this event happen. Other organizations, including running groups such as Halifax Hares and neighbourhood assocations, have also organized separate cleanups in the Watershed area throughout the year. Thanks everyone!

We continued our water quality monitoring program, using our data logging equipment installed at six locations in the river between the Long Lake dam and Herring Cove. Our hope is that we can start pulling insightful data as this program continues in 2024-2025. 

Land Conservation

MRWA continues to be engaged in conversations with community organizations, the city and the province about planning and conservation efforts within the watershed. 

Overlay map of proposed land use, on wildlife corridors and areas of high ecological value. A-E refer to comments on specific issues (map shown is an overlay of Maps 2 and 6, HRM Draft Regional Plan, October 2023).

One of the highlights this year was our feedback to the HRM Regional Plan in October 2023. Our feedback was captured by HRM in the final report. We emphasized protecting  large Watershed conservation regions on both sides of Herring Cove Road, and maintaining wildlife corridors between them. We also support urban planning that will provide public access to both of these regions in the future (future trailheads). We also called for HRM to adopt  larger protective buffer zones for streams, wetlands, and lakes. Finally, population growth in the watershed area should be focussed on gentle density, new developments in already disturbed ‘brown field’ areas. Better public transportation and  walking and biking routes are needed in communities in the Watershed area. 

We also provided strategic feedback to HRM on the Housing Accelerator Fund, submitting comments on specific proposals.  We submitted feedback through public engagement processes, and had conversations with our local councilor Patty Cuttell. Members of the MRWA board have also participated as part of the Backlands Coalition meetings. 

We were very excited to learn about the new conservation acquisition by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, adding to their conservation assembly in Purcells Cove area. MRWA was happy to contribute funds directly to NSNT for this acquisition. We congratulate everyone who has  supported this effort! We were also delighted to see the recent HRM announcement about land acquisition to expand the Shaw Wilderness Park. 

Trail related work in 2022-2023

The board was successful in raising funds towards the McIntosh Run trail project. We received a grant from the province and were able to carry over unspent funds from an HRM grant received in 2021-22. We greatly appreciate the support of MLA Brendan Maguire in providing his continued support to MRWA and helping strengthen the working relationship with CCTH.  

During the trail sponsorship drive almost all previous trail sponsors who were up for renewal reoffered their support for the project for the next two years. This year we will have seven trails going up for auction! The community continues to show their support for the trails both through volunteer efforts and through individual financial donations. A big thank you to everyone who has supported the trail project again this year.

With our 2022-2023 Letter of Authority with the Province for phase two of the trail project we officially opened the first three kilometers of new trail, which includes Boulderama, Gutterball and Orange Jelly Extension. A huge volunteer effort complimented Kodiak’s Trailwork’s work in finishing the trail tread and constructing various boardwalks along the way. Thank you to Lawrence Plug, Kaarin Tae, Peter and Kim Dodge, Toby Bryant, Russ Deveau, Ava Touesnard, Jeff Brownlie, Keith Croucher, Eric Martyn, and the many other volunteers who invested about 1000 hours in trail work last year. Stay tuned for an official opening party in the coming weeks.

In addition, MRWA had another big EVOC trail day, supported by EVOC Sports and Cyclesmith. Numerous other smaller maintenance events, and clearing of downed trees etc occurred throughout the year too, thanks to our volunteers. 

The new Letter of Authority issued by  NSDNR for the trails also made changes and clarifications on how trails can be used: Dogs must be on leash in all areas, and all motorized uses continue to be  prohibited on the singletrack trails. The only exceptions are motorized electric wheelchairs, and for construction and trail management.

Finally, this spring MRWA applied for and received additional provincial funding that will enable us to proceed with  the next step in building Phase 2 of the trail system. We expect to add about 1.5km of trail later this year. Our sponsors, volunteers, and government support together make this possible.

MRWA Organization and Events

Organizationally, we developed and formalized a code of ethics for the board, contractors, and lead volunteers working on MRWA projects. This helps us set out expectations for those in the organization to complete our work in a good way and we look forward to continuing the same as we onboard our new board. 

In addition to our conservation efforts, we have also made significant strides in fundraising and public engagement. 2023-24 saw several other events on the McIntosh Run Trails including the 3nd annual ‘Granite Fondo’ bike ride. We saw a remarkable 68% increase in funds raised compared to last year, thanks to the generosity of our supporters and the tireless efforts of our organizers. A special mention to Ride East instructor and MRWA supporter Catherine Anne, and to CycleSmith and Cavicci’s for the recurring event’s support. We also continued our She/Her+ mountain bike rides. We worked collaboratively with All Out Racing for the second edition of the McIntosh Trail 10k. It’s nice to see lots of activity and use of the trails by the public.

Our increased presence and engagement on social media platforms have allowed us to effectively communicate important messages, such as the full-system closure necessitated by province-wide forest fires that we all experienced last May. By leveraging the power of social media, we have been able to keep our community informed and mobilize support when needed.

This year a local artist Frankie Macauley the Artist-in-Residence at Pavia Café, focusing on the nearby landscape of the McIntosh Run Watershed. They explored trails, researched its history, and created paper weavings inspired by Minecraft. Their art highlights biodiversity components like lemon disco fungi and granite, and topographical sculptures.

We continued to promote stewardship and appreciation of the watershed, trails, and conservation through social media, on our website, and through press releases. The announcement of the new trail resulted in high engagement on socials and in our community. All this helps raise the profile of the value of the natural areas within the watershed to the community.

Transition, change, looking forward

2023-2024 has been a year of transition for MRWA, a year of change. We operated without a president, and also began the succession planning for the departure of Kaarin and Lawrence, long-term board members who are not reoffering. Kaarin and Lawrence have been on the MRWA board 20y and 13y respectively, and during this time have been instrumental in all aspects of MRWA’s mission, from whistleblowing on sewage releases into the river, to measuring water quality and freshwater biodiversity,  to being the driving force for the McIntosh Run Singletrack trail system – from planning, writing proposals, to swinging hammers and picks. On March 20th, MP Andy Fillmore joined our board meeting to congratulate and express  appreciation to Kaarin and Lawrence on their contribution. Both also received HRM’s “Volunteers of the Year” award in 2024. 

We have many exciting projects on the horizon for 2024-2025. This includes the return of our Newcomers hike series. We are also planning continuation of  our Phase 2 trails, including construction of about 1.5km of new trail in 2024, with TrailFlow.  In June 2024, we’ve partnered with Nova Scotia Trails to host Trail Academy to train and recruit some new trail leaders. We’ll be hosting the Granite Fondo, and a few more events this year, and our spring/summer trail auction.   

Finally, we want to thank all the supporters, volunteers and board members who continue to make MRWA what it is. Thank you to Kaarin Tae, Lawrence Plug, Andrea Bradshaw, and Bruce Lusby who will be stepping down from the Board. We look forward to and welcome new contributors to MRWA’s mission of combining ecological integrity and public access in the Watershed area.