New public hiking trail on Hebbville farm a ‘win-win’


  • <p>SUBMITTED PHOTO</p><p>Jonathan Lewis (on the right) and his friend Andy Reid working on the public hiking trail they recently helped create in Hebbville.</p>
  • <p>SUBMITTED PHOTO</p><p>Machine owner and operator Kendall Ernst helped clear the path.</p>
  • <p>SUBMITTED PHOTO</p><p>The bridges are designed to accommodate hikers and cyclists only.</p>

Local businessman and philanthropist Jonathan Lewis has forged a new path in community spirit, literally.

Eleven years ago, Lewis and his wife Sara established a family foundation, which included among its charitable activities a Christmas turkey drop for those in need in Bridgewater and elsewhere in Nova Scotia.

Earlier this month, Lewis proudly announced the opening of a new, 3.5 kilometre public hiking trail he initiated and, along with his wife and some friends, created on the historical Indian Garden Farms property outside of Bridgewater, which is owned by Glen Hebb and his family.

"This is our gift from the Lewis family and the Hebb family to the community of Bridgewater and Hebbville. Glen donated the land, and I donated the work and the finances to build it," Lewis told LighthouseNOW.

At a cost of about $5,000 when all is said and done, it was no small commitment on his part. However, hikers may use the trail for free, and Lewis sees it as a "win-win" scenario.

Lewis is the president and founding partner of a financial services company and lives at Fancy Lake outside of Bridgewater. He had been commenting to Hebb, a neighbour and friend, how he had noticed that since the COVID-19 pandemic started there have been a lot more people walking around the farm, where he himself often walked, taking to the woods there. He wondered if the plethora of walkers was causing an issue with farm operations.

Lewis said Hebb told him his family didn’t want to discourage people from walking, since being able to do so is especially important during the pandemic, but there are times when people forget it's a working farm. Lewis then asked Hebb what he thought of the idea of putting a designated hiking trail on the farm.

In exploring the farm's wooded areas, Lewis had come across some old logging roads and an island on the property that Hebb's grandfather, Fletcher, had built.

"I said, 'Well, if I had your blessing, my foundation will pay for all the costs. I'll flag all the trail and you and I can walk it, and then if you're okay with it I'm going to put trails through the farm that keeps people off the roads, off the fields and in the woods. And it's a win-win."

Both men recognized it wasn't a small undertaking, labour- and cost-wise, but Lewis was happy to do it.

With the pandemic he found himself working at home more than ever. He welcomed the mental break and the exercise. "It's a good thing for me too," he said.

On Boxing Day, 2020 he started "flagging and chain sawing." He worked on the trail off and on, but things got busy and in in the way of his completing his goal.

"This Christmas I said to my wife, 'I'm finishing that trail.'"

He had ordered hemlock timber from a friend in Caledonia, which was piled beside the road on the farm all fall. "And so I had everything I needed."

He recruited the help of some friends, and, using an excavator, finished the trail a couple of weeks ago.

"And when I say finished, we have about three-and-a-half kilometres, totally open, round trip, from essentially the covered bridge by the Tastee Freeze back to the cemetery by the Taste Freeze," Lewis explained. "And I've got another two clicks I'm still working on." Completion of the additional two kilometres is being stymied by cold temperatures and frozen ground. "But there's a solid three and a half kilometre loop open."

The trail boasts bridges over all the creeks and rivers and handrails are on order. Signage also is on order and will go up in the spring.

Lewis estimates he's spent about $3,500 so far, and anticipates it'll take another $1,500 or so for the signage and "a few more improvements to the bridges."

In any case, Lewis emphasizes this is no proverbial walk in the park. In other words, it's not like a groomed walking trail one might associate with a provincial park.

"This is, right now, hard core hiking. " It would be considered a trail of "medium" difficulty "with moderate elevation."

Moreover, the Hebbs have stressed those using the trails are doing so at their own risk.

"For example, the hemlock bridges we built over the creeks and rivers are every bit, you know, a challenge," said Lewis. "It's not an easy walk. It's for people that really want to exercise," said Lewis.

He also stressed that the trail is not open to any motorized traffic, such as ATVs or motorbikes.

The bridges, for example, are built in such a way that hikers and mountain bikes can get over, but ATVs and motorbikes can't.

"It's for those who want to walk and just enjoy the peace of nature," said Lewis.

Thank you for printing this article from lighthousenow.ca. Subscribe today for access to all articles, including our archives!