NICTAUX, NS - The trail through Nictaux was so overgrown that at some points two ATVs approaching each other was a recipe for disaster.
That’s why Butch Guitard and some other volunteers geared up and started some major upgrades, especially in the more urban sections where people walk dogs, hike, and ride horses.
They started at the Nixtaux Road / Middle Road intersection and hope to go all the way to Springfield. It’s an ambitious project, but trail users say it’s about time.
“This work here is being done by South Shore Annapolis Valley Trail Society,” said Guitard as a grader worked just to the east of the Lions Club hall that backs onto the trail. It was May 28 and they’d been working three or four days already and making good progress.
“The funds that we get are from grants from Annapolis County, grants from Lunenburg County, the OHV Fund, that sort of thing,” he said. “We apply for them throughout the year and then get the grant money to do the work.”
Volunteers Dave Bishop and Ken Clarke are half a kilometer north on the trail with a Stihl brush cutter and a pole saw cutting back the trees and shrubs that threatened to close the trail off altogether in a few more years.
Hawthorne trees sport thorns an inch-and-a-half long and are so sharp and tough they can puncture a tire or put out an eye. They wear safety gear.
The Trail is 122 kilometres long altogether, but Guitard is only responsible for the Annapolis County section. There’s another trail manager at the New Germany end where the trail stops. Another leg swings back from New Germany to the west and ends at Caledonia.
“We started in Nictaux here because this was one of the parts of the trail that was most used at this end of the province,” said Guitard. “It’s highly used and it’s never had any maintenance done to it – really heavy maintenance done to it – in the last 10 years. So we decided to tackle this end because there’s a lot of dust flies on this trail right here up to Highway 10.”
Ivan Trimper has been contracted to do the heavy work and supply the materials like soil, gravel, and crusher dust as needed.
“What we’re doing is regrading it, clearing all the brush off the sides so it’s more visual,” Guitard said. “Basically we’ve gone from about five feet to almost 10 feet wide now because it was too congested in here. It’s a multi-use trail so it’s used by people on bicycles, runners, walkers, horses, ATVs.”
They’re also repairing any culverts that need repair, and fixing up signs.
He said they want to accommodate everybody on the trail. Grading it took out the dips and potholes, making it safer, especially for runners.
“We put crusher dust on top to try to control dust so it doesn’t affect the local people in the area that have houses backed up to the trail,” he said. “So we’re trying to do some remedial work in that area that we can help control the dust that’s on here.”
Up the Mountain
David Bishop takes a break from operating the brush cutter to start up his Can Am side-by-side and take a tour across the other side of Highway 10 and north up the mountain through stands of hardwood. The trail parallels the Nictaux River, and at times riders can look almost straight down to the black water 100 feet below them. At one point you ride through a section where the old railway went between walls of blasted rock maybe a dozen feet high. It’s like a tunnel without a roof.
While the trail is wide and the sight lines are good, that section is rough and dotted with potholes and dips. The edges have been scraped but more work needs to be done. Bishop reaches the dam at the top and pauses to take in the view across the lake. Its gorgeous.
How far will Guitard and his volunteers go?
“As far as the money will take me, which would be from the Nictaux Road going south down the old rail bed as far as we can go – and I don’t know how far that’s going to be,” he said. “Right now, in total, we’ve done maybe, I’d say between 12 and 14 kilometres.”
Ideally he’d like to make it all the way to Springfield but doesn’t know yet if that’s possible.
He noted that the crusher dust will only be used in the more populated Nictaux area and won’t be used once the trail crosses Highway 10.
“As we move along here we fix everything as we go,” said Guitard. There’s falling tree dangerously threatening trail users and Guitard, Clarke, and Bishop debate what they’ll do to cut it down. “So far the people in Nictaux have been very receptive to it. They’ve basically said it’s about time.”
But it all takes money and volunteers.
“We’re not paid people out here at all,” he said. “We’re just volunteers that come out here and help to do this. They’re very valuable because they’re guys I can depend on all the time to come out when I ask them to – they’re always here for me.”