Marion Thompson hikes along the Red Island Trail's new bridge last November. (Photo by Lisa Finney)

Topics: UCC in Focus | Environment

Nova Scotia church restores beautiful hiking path

The community pitched in to help St. Ann's Bay United revitalize the Red Island Trail

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St. Ann’s Bay United in Indian Brook, N.S., has a unique connection to the natural world. Located on the world-famous Cabot Trail, the church is next to the three-kilometre Red Island Trail, which has spectacular views of three separate waterways. The 15-year-old hiking path was overgrown until the church stepped up to manage it under an agreement with Nova Scotia Environment.

“The trail deserved to be taken care of,” says Mary Ann Wilson, who has lived in the community for 40 years. “It had good bones.” She decided to take responsibility for the trail and to apply for a government grant to make improvements. In fall 2018, Wilson and five others formed a group called Friends of the Red Island Trail, with funds overseen by the church’s trustees, and in November 2019 they received their grant.

The trail is now a year-round asset, used for snowshoeing, skating, cross-country skiing and hiking.

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Lots of people pitched in to help the Friends. The provincial government created a new side trail, supplied signs and a new map, assumed liability and insurance coverage, and started to maintain the trail. Local businesses donated funds and supplies, and many individuals gave materials, labour or professional services.

Last summer, the Friends added eight new hemlock benches made by community member Murdock MacDonald. In September, Robie Gourd, a local engineer and wilderness installation expert, drew up some plans for a new bridge for a part of the trail that regularly flooded. Nova Scotia Power donated three 14-metre utility poles for the bridge’s foundation, and carpenter Geordie Kennedy built the handsome structure over the course of a week.

“We did all this work on faith,” says Wilson. “We couldn’t give up, not with so many people in the community backing us.”

“There is an openness and strength to this community,” says Marion Thompson, another of the six Friends, “and such generosity. It’s a great trail, and we all love it.”

Adds Wilson, “Now we can share and promote it.”

This article was first published in Broadview’s April 2020 issue.

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