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Greenways Nova Scotia

Saving the Trans Canada Trail in Nova Scotia

A Vision for Nova Scotia's Evangeline Greenway

Running from Hantsport in Kings County to Weymouth in Digby County, the proposed Evangeline Greenway, designated and promoted as part of the Trans Canada Trail, has the potential to be an invaluable public asset for the province and the local communities along its path. There are many reasons why the Province should be supporting the development of the rail trails as greenways, and why our local county and municipal officials should be doing so as well.

  1. The Rail Corridor is an ideal environment for Greenway trail development. As a former rail bed it follows an easy grade, perfect for walkers, cyclists and cross-country skiers, connecting people both within and between communities.

  2. It is where people live. Approximately 40% of households are located within 1 km of the rail trail while about 10% are within just 200 metres. This accessibility to such a large percentage of the population makes it of tremendous value as public infrastructure to support and encourage physical activity.

    Pie graphshowing how close dwellings are to the abandoned rail corridor.
  3. People prefer greenway trails. When asked, the majority of people say they want public trails to be greenways - quiet, safe and inviting places to walk and cycle. A survey of Annapolis, sponsored by the County - showed that 85% of households want restrictions on ATV's and other motorized vehicles on the abandoned rail trail. A petition to the Province from the community of Smith's Cove showed the clear majority of adjacent homeowners, as well as all others living in the community, want the rail trail to be non-motorized. The Paradise Active & Healthy Living Society is currently awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia regarding the community's right to have a non-motorized trail.

  4. Greenways promote physical activity, a key component of healthy living. Walking and other forms of physical activity are increasingly part of Doctors prescriptions and recognized by health professionals and organizations as being a key component of healthy living. The NS Department of Health & Wellness has stated it is a priority to increase physical activity amongst Nova Scotians.

  5. Greenways promote tourism. The Evangeline Greenway would be an asset to tourism in the Valley and along the Fundy Coast. Designation, branding and promotion as part of the Trans Canada Trail would further enhance market appeal. Tourism aimed at cycling clubs, and greenway trails for visitors to walk and explore local communities, has proven to be very successful in other areas.1

  6. Creating the Evangeline Greenway would fulfil a major part of Nova Scotia's commitment to develop Phase II of the Trans Canada Trail. The abandoned rail corridor across the three counties was a gift to Nova Scotia from the Trans Canada Trail foundation in 1999, one made with the expectation that this would become part of a national greenway trail. Planning is currently underway between the provinces designated TCT representative (the NS Trails Federation2) and the TCT for the development of Phase II – the Western Loop – which includes the trail through Kings, Annapolis and Digby Counties. With ATV's allowed on the majority of the rail trails, we currently do not meet the Trans Canada Trail greenway principles and standards, and are NOT eligible for designation as part of the Trans Canada Trail.3

Obstacles & Challenges to an Evangeline Greenway

There are several obstacles and challenges to creating the Evangeline Greenway, including the following:

  1. Provincial policy and process favours motorized use of public trails. The NS Departments of Health & Wellness and Natural Resources share responsibility for public trails on crown lands. Health & Wellness are responsible for the Physical Activity, Sports & Recreation function. DNR are the stewards of Crown Land, trails and parks. They also share responsibility for OHV policy and regulation in the province. When the province wanted to address the problems of ATVs in wilderness areas and on private lands, they were given the job of finding solutions. Working with the ATV Association of Nova Scotia (ATVANS), they crafted a plan to allow them on the abandoned rail corridor. The provinces "multi-use" trails policy and the formation and support of the pro-motorized Annapolis Valley Trails Coalition, were both components of that plan.

    The Department of Health & Wellness started following a multi-use policy in 2007, the same year it worked with ATVANS and other OHV groups to create the Annapolis Valley Trails Coalition. Since 2007 the Department of Natural Resources have given Letters of Authority for most of the rail corridor under its jurisdiction to groups within the Coalition.

  2. Public funding prioritizes the development of motorized trails over greenways. For the past several years, the majority of public funds provided to trail groups in the province have been used to develop trails that allow ATV's. Programs for Rails to Trails from ACOA at the federal level and physical activity programs administered by NS Health & Wellness has been the main sources of funding for public trails.

    The cost of developing, maintaining and insuring motorized trails is much higher than the costs associated with greenways. It costs more to build trails that meet the extra requirement of motorized use – special surfacing, extra trail widening and clearing, long linear sight lines, reinforcement of culverts, bridges and rail beds. And it costs approximately four times as much to maintain motorized trails as it does greenway trails. With limited funding available for trail development, the prioritization of greenways over motorized trails would be a much more effective use of public funds.

  3. Groups Opposing Greenway Trails. OHV groups have been vocal in their support of their activities and active in trail development, none more so perhaps than the ATV Association of Nova Scotia. While they represent a large membership of OHV users, they have also been heavily subsidized by both the OHV industy and the Province in the past.4 They clearly will not support a greenway or Trans Canada Trail on the rail corridor.

    ATV's and Snowmobiles are enjoyed by many people and families in the area and there are many trails where they can ride. An extensive network of dedicated ATV and snowmobile trails have been developed across the province, most of them in remote areas and away from residential communities. In the Municipality of Digby5 alone there is approximately 500 km of ATV trails. In Annapolis County there is another 600 km of snowmobile trail. While hard numbers are not available for all regions, we estimate up to 2000 km or more of off-road trails across the three counties. There are ample places for OHV enthusiasts to ride in our area without sacrificing what could become a greenway Trans Canada Trail.

    While it would appear that the motorized agenda has been less successful under the current NDP government, it remains to be seen if the influence the motorized groups and trail organizations have enjoyed will be tempered with more reasonable public policy as it concerns greenway development and the Trans Canada Trail.

For who to contact to express your views - Click Here.

*Related reading*

1 Quebec's La Route Verte, is an excellent example of the strong tourism related economic benefits to be gained with greenway development.
2 The NS Trails Federation has long supported the motorizing of the Provinces trails. A copy of their July 2011 TCT policy update is included in the reference section.
3 Trans Canada Trail policies can be found on the TCT website at: http://www.tctrail.ca/policies.php
4 . In 2007, for instance, the ATVANS organization forecasted membership dues of $70,000. At the same time it budgeted for operating expenses totalling $552,000, including $100,000 for advertising and promotions. Offsetting this eight-fold shortfall in membership dues were OHV industry donations totalling $200,000, $190,000 in allocations from the provincial OHV Infrastructure Fund and $77,000 from Health Promotion & Protection (the former name of the Department of Health & Wellness).
5 Digby County is comprised of two municipalities: Digby and Clare.