Volunteers dedicated to local nature trails

Published on May 23, 2014

Pictou County Trails Association members Fran Wyman, Gordon Young and Ken

Fraser, at the beginning of the Fitzpatrick Mountain Trail in Scotsburn.

©Rosalie MacEachern photo

A love of the outdoors is what gets three retirees out on a regular basis, planning, maintaining and promoting nature trails across Pictou County.

         Fran Wyman, a Montreal native who raised a family with her husband in Laggan, was looking for a new interest after retiring from teaching. A notice about a trails association meeting caught her eye.

         “I wanted something that would be healthy and rewarding.  I’d always enjoyed the woods but I’d never thought in terms of hiking or trail-walking.”

         Ken Fraser, who grew up in Durham area and moved back to the county at the end of his teaching career, also heard about the meeting. His interest was sparked by good memories of Boy Scout days trekking along wooded footpaths and logging roads.

         Wyman and Fraser are among those who have donned their hiking boots to share now-retired physician Gordon Young’ s passion for a system of easily accessible trails.

         “My interest in the trails goes back to when the rail line was abandoned. I thought it was an ideal opportunity to develop walking trails,” said Young.

         Not everybody shared his vision and he particularly remembers the words of a confounded local politician.

         “Who is ever going to walk on them?” he asked, when Young badgered him for his support.

         The answer, happily, has been school and youth groups, families, seniors, naturalists, scientists, artists, cyclists and other sports enthusiasts.

         But while many people enjoy the trails a couple of hours at a time, members of the Pictou County Trails Association labour over maintenance, signage, funding applications and landowner agreements.

         Fitzpatrick Mountain in Scotsburn was the first trail developed and Young remembers that early on some landowners were receptive to having trials cross their woodlands but others had to be persuaded.   

         “It is nice today to see that some of those who were initially the most reluctant are now great supporters of the trails.”

         It is a little different in the eastern part of the county.

         “We have not had as much luck persuading landowners in the east.  We provide liability insurance which should alleviate a lot of concern but it is difficult to get a discussion going,” said Wyman, adding she is hopeful that will change over time.

         One of the association’s immediate plans is to install kiosks and signs to point people toward the existing trails.

         While solitary hikers are always welcome to use the trails, the association has learned that many walkers and hikers enjoy a group activity.

         “We try to have weekly hikes in northern Nova Scotia. We’ll advertise hikes beginning at different locations and hope we get a good turnout,” said Wyman.

         Young said it is a great way for people to get to know each other.

         “Based on all the years I have been out here, I’d say hikers are generally very sociable. A lot of people like to go in a group and if you are new to it, you may like to know somebody is leading you.”

         In winter there are snowshoe hikes and others are sometimes organized around a theme such as the historical hikes Fraser has led in the Rogers Hill area, between Durham and Quarry Brook.

         “I’ve led that one twice, once with about 30 people and once with a smaller crowd. It was a combination of information about the woods and the history of the area.”

         While the association strives to add trails and improve those in existence in the county, its members see themselves as part of the Cape to Cape Trail initiative which would see 400 kms of walking trail linking Cape George to Cape Chignecto.

         “It would run along some of the highest points on the mainland with some great sea coast views but it only exists in sections. A completed trail is the dream,” said Fraser.

         And if that dream is not big enough, there is the Trans Canada Trail project that would see 24,000 kms of trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. To date approximately 17, 000 kms exists.

         Wyman would love to have a trail closer to her home but she enjoys Fitzpatrick Mountain trail while Young’s favorite is a section of trail at Six Mile Brook.

         “Our nicest area, to me, is Six Mile Brook and Dalhousie Mountain. I’m not as fond of the rail bed because it is flat and kind of boring but others like that.  To get the most people out using the trials we need to be able to offer different experiences,” he said.

         If you are looking for a breath-taking view or wonder what kind of birds nest in local woodlands or want to be able to tell a hemlock from a fir, head out by yourself or join a group hike.  Check out a trails website or e-mail gordondotyoung@gmail.com.   

-Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer who seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love the most. If you have someone you think should she should profile in an upcoming article, she can be reached at r.maceachern@ns.sympatico.ca