Province supports trail repairs with thousands in funding

CHESTER - Around half of the $5 million, pledged by Service Nova Scotia toward covering public trail damage in the province caused by the massive rainfall in July, is earmarked for the Chester Connection Trail.

The estimated $2.3-to-$3 million is designated to pay contractors to carry out repairs and reimburse community groups for work already finished. The Municipality of Chester (MOC) oversees the Chester Connection Trail, a nearly 50-kilometre multi-use route between Martins River and Hubbards, which used to be the rail line.

If not for the cash infusion from the provincial government, it likely would have taken longer for many repairs to finish, said Chad Haughn, MOC's community development and recreation director, noting the money is "very impactful."

Dozens of public sector trails in Nova Scotia were damaged as a consequence of 200-millimetres-plus of rain falling in the region in less than 24-hours. The affects of the resulting flooding buckled culverts, washed out roads and bridges and rendered trail systems inaccessible.

"The amount of damage we had from that flood was just unbelievable," Haughn said in a phone interview. "When you look at the other damage; to (highway bridges) and that type of thing, our infrastructure isn't set up to be able to handle (hundreds of) millimetres of rain in a short amount of time. It was pretty devastating to the trails."

The hope was to have much of the work done by the start of 2024 but a couple locations in the Western Shore and Gold River areas remain closed for now. The popular Castle Rock trail is included in the temporary closure between East River and East Chester.

"After we went through the initial assessment of the extent of damage, we prioritized the repair work," Haughn said. "Obviously, there were a few sections that received little damage, so we went into those and made a few minor repairs to have them back open to the public."

Sections where a watercourse is present involves restricted timeframe in which to work. Preliminary repairs were made near Walker Road because of severe washouts and landslide risk there.

In places where culverts experienced major failure, five new trail bridges had to be built, including the area leading to Castle Rock.

In the meantime, Haughn asks the public to respect the barricades in place, for their own safety and for the well-being of work crews who may be on site.

"We're doing our best to try and get them open and people back out enjoying the trails like they want to."

Queens County Rails to Trails in Queens County received $144,000 in support, while the LaHave River Trail in Lunenburg County also secured six-figures, $285,000.

Other successful local entities that landed trail repair funds included support for the Bay to Bay Trail ($98,000); Hubbards and Area All-terrain Vehicle Club ($85,000); Bull Run Trail ($45,000) and Adventure Trail ($40,000).

The Dynamite Trail ($30,000), Brookfield Mines Trail ($20,000) and Aspotogan Trail ($14,000) also received funding from the province.

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