A large and enthusiastic crowd attended a public information session at the Mount Uniacke Firehall on the evening of September 6, 2017.
Approximately 150 people heard a proposal by a small group of residents to convert the approximately 12km of abandoned rail line in the Uniacke / Lakelands area of East Hants into a multi use trail.
The messages conveyed to the audience were that it is essential the railway right of way be acquired for public use before it is lost. If the right of way falls into other hands the opportunity for public use could be lost forever. It was also stressed that public awareness and support is also required for this project to come to reality.
The organizational group is working closely with Halifax Regional Municipality and several HRM Groups (2nd Lake, First Lake, SWEPTS, and Sackville Rivers Association) who are actively pursuing a similar plan on the rail line from Windsor Junction to South Uniacke. The group has also reached out to the Municipality of West Hants and the Town of Windsor to create a 50 km linear park system with great recreational and tourism potential.
The proposed multi use Active Transportation trail would offer amazing scenic vistas as it passes by Pentz Lake, Murphy Lake, Martha Lake and Five Island Lake. There are 2 bridges over rivers and streams and many look offs that will provide spectacular views.
The trail would pass close to Uniacke Estate Museum Park. Connection between the proposed trail and the Park’s trail network could be easily accomplished. The HRM trail group envisage Uniacke Estate as a popular destination for cyclists and hikers from HRM eager to explore the history of the museum and hike the many scenic trails within the park.
As was mentioned at the meeting the benefits of a multi-use trail are numerous such as:
- Recreation for all ages and all members of the family
- Health benefits
- Local ownership of the right of way
- Increased tourism
- Boost to the local economy
- Jobs for local people
The presentation included photos of the existing condition of the unmaintained rail line. The tracks were shown to be in poor and unusable condition. Vegetation has over taken the abandoned rail line in many areas rendering the tracks unusable.
Photos were then shown of existing rails to trails projects in HRM and along the South Shore. These trails run past lakes and rivers and include picnic tables and benches strategically placed at scenic vistas. Public parking is available at many locations where the trail intersects a public road.
Walter N Regan, the President of Sackville Rivers Association, gave an inspiring and informative talk on his experience developing trails in the Sackville area for the past 30 years.
Mr. Regan mentioned HRM’s interest in developing their end of the rail line into a trail. To that end HRM Council has directed their staff to prepare a report “on the feasibility of developing an active transportation facility on the corridor of the Windsor and Hantsport Railway that includes information on the potential cost, property permission options, implementation options, and connectivity to the active transportation network in Halifax and the Municipality of the District of East Hants”. This is necessary as the right of way is owned by CN and is currently leased to the Windsor & Hants Railway.
Previously, HRM purchased land from CN to develop the Chain of Lakes Trail Association (COLTA) trail (which is used by over 75,000 people a year).
Mr. Regan stressed several times during his presentation that the rail line right of way should be in public ownership for the use and enjoyment of the community.
Mr. Regan highlighted “the Canadian dreams” over the past generations…
- A national coast to coast railway
- A national coast to coast highway
- And more recently, a national coast to coast to coast trail system
The Rails to Trails would be a feeder trail to The Great Trail (formally known as Trans Canada Trail) if acquired and built.
It is time for our communities to do our part to fulfill Canada’s 3rd National Dream.
The audience was given an opportunity to pose questions. Many spoke of their support of the trail concept, citing their experience on trails in other areas. Some concerns were expressed at the potential for increased noise due to the trail. One couple stated their requirement to maintain access to a parcel of land they own on the other side of the rail line. They presently have a lease agreement with the rail line owner. There was a large contingent of Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) users present at the meeting who stressed the importance of ATV’s being allowed access to the trail. This area of East Hants has many ATV users who see the importance of the trail providing connectivity to other OHV trails in the area.
A local trail committee / association will be formed soon. The audience was asked for volunteers to help with the project. A number of individuals stepped forward to offer their assistance. Please contact Paul Smith by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 902-866-3647 should you wish to be involved in the project or to be kept informed of its progress.