Annapolis trail system set to open ahead of schedule

Annapolis Valley Rail Trail Co-ordinator Rick Jacques (centre with safety jacket) and volunteers with the Annapolis County Trail Society. (Contributed)

It has been a long road to travel, but the entire Harvest Moon Trailway connecting Annapolis Royal to Grand Pré across 115 kilometres of rail corridor is expecting to be open this summer, two years ahead of schedule.

Danny Phinney, president of the Annapolis County Trail Federation, is counting on the next 170 days to get the Annapolis Rail Trail connected between Wolfville and Annapolis Royal for Canada’s 150th anniversary on July 1, 2017.

“That’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “It might not be all finished but it will be connected,” he told the Chronicle Herald in an interview Monday.

In 2016, volunteers helped the group complete roughly 34 of 51 kilometres of rail bed trail in Annapolis County, including seven bridges that are now 100 per cent complete with new timber and decks.

Development of the rail corridor through the Annapolis Valley can be thought of as a train itself, with parts that are owned and maintained by nine different trail groups and local municipalities, adjacent to some 10,000 landowners, all working at different speeds.

Reaching the goal of connecting the entire trail is being conducted by Rick Jacques, co-ordinator of the Annapolis Valley Trails Coalition.

Jacques couldn’t be reached by deadline but he commented on Facebook that talks about completing the last five-kilometre leg between Wolfville and Grand Pré with Windsor and Hantsport Railway Company owner Bob Schmidt and the municipality are ongoing.

“We are working towards that goal . . . targeting getting finished to Grand Pré by August,” said Jacques.

It might have been ready by the end of June but the municipal election and the resignation of Kings County CAO Tom MacEwan appear to have slowed things down for the time being.

But two years ago it was thought work on the Harvest Moon Trailway wouldn’t be completed until 2019.

“The funding through Bike Nova Scotia last spring was the game-changer,” said Marcel Morin of the Grand Pré Trails Society, referring to the $1.14 million announced in June going toward the Blue Route to help develop a 3,000-kilometre provincial bike trail system. The provincial government added another $2.6 million for additional work for the entire route around the province.

Another influencing factor was that Schmidt allowed the society to develop directly on the rail bed instead of beside it, as originally intended.

Morin said he doubted otherwise that the section would have been done to link the National Historic site to the Wickwire dyke in Wolfville, because both sides of the rail corridor are swampy and would have required much more investment and work.

This week Phinney said funding applications are going in to help cover the costs of completing the trail between Tupperville and Annapolis Royal. Their association also has a funding application into the $2-million Canada 150 fund available for community projects.

On western end of the trail, three new bridges still need to be built and two others need repairs, including the Bridgetown bridge over the Annapolis River. The other bridges cross the river’s tributaries.

“The Bridgetown bridge isn’t finished yet. It needs railings, but it is usable,” said Phinney.

Work includes clearing growth for access, ditching, installing culverts as well as the rails and decking on the bridges. “We still have some signs and gates to put in, too, as well as doing the ongoing maintenance.

“Most of the rail bed is in good shape, thanks to local residents who keep it trimmed back.”

Phinney said the last bit of work they did on New Year’s Eve on Bloody Creek bridge was satisfying when some people came up to thank them for their hard work so all could enjoy.

“People who use it like it, but they may not understand the amount of work that went into it,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s a small number of people that make big things happen.”



Article Source: Herald News

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