Do the solar system and local nature mix?
If you ask the McNeary family of Bridgewater, it's a resounding yes.
For two months, the family-consisting of Bob and Juanita and their two sons, Logan and Liam-worked on bringing the solar system to Earth. In doing so, they've re-imagined 5.9 kilometres of the Centennial Trail into the Bridgewater Solar System Trail.
They've strategically erected posters along the trail with information about the solar system, scaling their positions so that one kilometre of trail equals one billion kilometres in space.
Their solar system trail begins at the LaHave Ballfield and ends at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre. It takes roughly 1.5-2 hours to complete.
The idea came from a similar solar project in Hubbards, explained 10-year-old Liam. "They had scaled the distances and had posters with information, so we thought we'd do something like that along the Centennial Trail."
It was a chance posting on Facebook that alerted the McNearys to the trail in Hubbards. The boys are home schooled and, according to Juanita, they had just started studying space at home in preparation for the latest Mars Rover, Perseverance, to land on the planet.
"It was amazing," said Juanita, about the trail in Hubbards. "We don't get to Hubbards often. There's not a lot there we thought to look for, but we found this amazing restaurant and some really cool little stores because the posters were actually on some of the businesses."
Logan, 12, further explained that they created posters of information which they had typed up for their homeschooling.
Along with posters of the planets, the McNearys included ones featuring the asteroid belt, Pluto (which has been known as a dwarf planet since 2006) and the Kuiper Belt.
"We had to walk the whole thing eight times," said Liam, about getting the trail laid out.
The family borrowed a measurement wheel, but had to re-track and replot.
"The posters weren't landing where we kind of needed them to go," said Juanita. "We wanted to keep it as close to (reality) as possible."
Only one planet-Saturn-is off its location slightly, as the town's mall doesn't allow outside signage. The McNearys' sign, however, does make note of the correct location.
Both Liam and Logan were interested in space even before the project. They say it was around an eight on a scale of one to 10, but it's increased since the trail project started. It's prompted them to include listening to space podcasts for their learning.
"I was interested in my favourite planet, Jupiter," said Liam. "There's a lot of facts to be known about it," and it's "crazy thinking there's infinite possibilities in infinite space."
Meanwhile, Mars has piqued Logan's interest, and the family was excited to watch Perseverance's live landing on the planet.
"The podcasts and all the facts are all interesting," said Logan. "I just kind of like [Mars]. I think it's really cool they've launched a ton of Rovers on it."
Since the launch of their solar system trail, the family has walked it twice with plans in the works to do it again with more family members and friends.
Nonetheless, Logan and Liam both enjoy the nature aspect the most.
"Seeing the LaHave River roll as we're walking is absolutely amazing," said Liam.
The family needed permission from the Town of Bridgewater to use the trail, and worked closely with the municipal recreation department. They hope their signs will stay up until the end of the summer before they take them down for the winter. The plan is to revisit the proposal they submitted and see about setting it up again. The location may change in the future, depending on feedback.
To help with the project, RH Sign & Design of Bridgewater provided materials for the signs. The family approached a number of businesses along the route, and report most reacted positively to the idea while some are working on their own ideas for promotion.
The public has also been supportive, said the McNearys.
"Every time we've been out, before the posters were put up, even while working on it and just doing measurements or planning stakes, everybody's asked what the project is, when it will be up. It's a lot of positive feedback," recalled Bob. "People are interested to check it out."