Since it’s inception in 1994, the MRWA has had a goal of developing non-motorized, low-impact and rustic trails, as a means toward enhancing public appreciation for the watershed — particularly the wild, backland areas — in it’s natural state.
In 2011-2012, MRWA developed a Concept Plan for a trail system, with the support of the TrailFlow (a trail design and construction firm) and funding support of the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness. The Concept Plan identified user types, approximate trail routes, and appropriate trail construction guidelines. Trails in the Concept Plan all lay on public land — both Nova Scotia Crown parcels (managed by the NSDNR) and parcels owned by Halifax Regional Municipality. MRWA then proceeded to a public consultation process to determine if there was public support for the plan before obtaining formal permission from HRM and NSDNR.
FIRST PUBLIC CONSULTATION (2012) (link):
In November 2012, the Concept Plan was presented at a public meeting at the William Spry Community Centre in Spryfield, and feedback was requested. The meeting was publicized to all neighboring landowners, the local communicty and the general public. 1500 flyers were delivered to door-to-door to every home adjacent to the properties in the proposal. A story about the proposed trails system and public consultation was published in the November issue of the Chebucto News, which is delivered free of charge to every residence on the Chebucto Peninsula. CBC TV News filed a story that was aired on the 6:00pm news on November 12th, with a shorter audio segment aired on CBC Radio news on November 13. MRWA President Kaarin Tae was interviewed about the project on CBC Information Morning on November 13th, and a 30 minute live interview on CKDU on November 9. The meeting was also publicized to partners organizations, Bicycle Nova Scotia, Hike Nova Scotia and the Halifax Trail Runners.
Approximately 180 people attended the 2012 consultation meeting, including the Halifax Councillor, provincial MLA, and federal MP for the area. Verbal support for the Concept was overwhelming at the meeting. To obtain more detailed and broader feedback, MRWA also distributed questionaires in hardcopy and via it’s website. 144 questionaires were returned. Key findings were:
78.5% of respondents (113 people) supported all aspects of the Concept Plan, as is. 13.2% were supportive of a singletrack nonmotorized system, but wanted modification of at least one aspect of the plan. Twelve people (8.3%) were ‘mostly’ or completely opposed to the concept plan.
Regarding types of trail uses: 98.6% of respondents supported the nonmotorized aspect of the project; 1.4% were opposed.
The uses identified by respondents were: Hiking 90%; Mountain Biking 60%; snowshoeing 51%; running 31% (the percentages total to >100% because many respondents said they would do two or more activities on the proposed trails).
Information gathered on the questionaires also identified which types of trails (easy, intermediate, difficult) were most desired, and in which areas.
In 2013, MRWA incorporated the feedback from the 2012 Consultation into a detailed construction plan, which included trail routes, trailheads and the trail building standards to be used. MRWA volunteers selected the trail routes, which includes a combination of loops near trailheads and a linear connector trail, through a combination of on-the-ground surveys and GIS and topographic maps. Route selection included identifying particular locations where trails should be routed (scenic overlooks; on durable, well drained surfaces where possible, etc) and areas avoid such as significant wetlands. Existing informal trails were also included in the planning. In summer 2014, LEES and Associates (a landscape architecture and trail design firm) was contracted by Halifax to assemble MRWA’s work into a detailed construction plan. LEES reviewed MRWA’s trail alignments, made minor adjustments, and assembled a detailed construction plan and proposal.
SECOND PUBLIC CONSULTATION (2014) (link):
In October 2014, LEES and MRWA presented the detailed plan at a second public meeting attended by approximately 180 people (publicized through Chebucto News, radio, TV and web). 60 people at the meeting signed up to be volunteer trail builders and support for the plan was overwhelming. (link)
In November 2014, Halifax Regional Council reviewed the detailed plan, and instructed staff to prepare a license agreement with MRWA, which would enable MRWA to proceed with the project on the Halifax parcels. The license agreement was completed by Halifax in November 2016, and signed by MRWA. In January 2016, NSDNR and MRWA signed a license agreement, allowing MRWA to proceed.
TRAIL BUILDING STARTS (2016):
In April 2016, ten MRWA members combined their trail knowledge on trailbuilding techniques and standards, in a workshop led by the professional building firm TrailFlow. A subset of these attendees became the MRWA Builders that lead volunteer crews.
Trail Building started in May 2016 on the Crown parcels near Norawarren Drive, and accelerated in August 2016 with a broader volunteer effort under the guidance of the trained Builders. With the agreement with HRM in place in December 2016, MRWA was able to begin work on Halifax properties.
Near Herring Cove: In the fall of 2016, MRWA volunteers got busy building the project’s first stage: two loops on Provincial Crown Land near Herring Cove. These are fun beginner loop trails through shady forests and over small granite outcrops. Financial support for materials and tools came from the NS Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage and from Dillon Consulting. In spring of 2017, volunteer crews have resumed building the access trail on HRM park land to connect these loops to a trailhead. We will install signs and hope to open these trails in early summer. Stay tuned! If you want to help work on these trails, contact MRWA below. We always need more people to prune, move dirt, and contribute to rockwork artistry!
Near Spryfield: In 2017, work will start on HRM parkland adjacent to the Governor’s Brook subdivision in Spryfield. This is an exciting area because of the unique granite barrens, regenerating Jack Pine forest, and the well-loved existing informal trails in the area. MRWA will upgrade a few kilometres of existing trail, mainly to address drainage issues and ensure boardwalks and structures are sound. The plan is also to build a few kilometres of brand NEW trail, including 3 access trails from HRM park parcels. The new trail will provide more opportunities to mountain bike, hike or run in this incredible area. In support of this work, MRWA received generous financial support from Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) through an Access and Activity Grant. Thanks, MEC!
What can YOU do? MRWA needs volunteers to help build these trails! Volunteers are what make us move forward faster, toward the ultimate goal of 28+km of singletrack connecting Spryfield to Herring Cove! Drop us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or facebook message if you want to be added to our volunteers email list.
It’s been a long road, but MRWA is happy to be finally building trail. We hope everyone enjoys the Watershed!
(written in Fall 2017)