Bedford-Sackville Observer – September 6, 2016
Heidi Tattrie Rushton | Go Outside
September 5, 2016- 9:32am
Bridge over Sackville River.
On one side of this trail runs a highway, so close you can see drivers slurping their morning coffee and rocking out to their car tunes. On the other side is the Canadian Forces Rifle Range with a steady stream of bullets firing from it.
But, wait! Stay with me. In the middle of the trail a river runs through it and this river is why you should take a walk on the Bedford Sackville Connector Greenway.
Almost immediately after I start my walk off Old Sackville Road (near Lynn Court) I begin seeing informational signs that tell me the story of the river. Part of that story includes the rows of rocks that stretch from from one side of the river to the other at various spots. It’s clear they do not naturally settle in that position and I learn from the signs that they are called rock sills.
The sills are built by volunteers with the Sackville Rivers Association to restore fish habitats that were damaged from development in the area. These formations allow water to flow over the rocks and create a natural downstream with pools and riffles for the Sackville River fish population, which include Atlantic Salmon, American Eel and Speckled Trout.
Fish aren’t the only residents of this river though. As I walk along I come to a spot that has a short path through the trees to the river. I glance down it as I pass and spot a Blue Heron standing majestically on the rocks of the river where, on the other side, cars speed by oblivious to his presence. I am so startled that by the time I think to take a photo he’s already happily skipped his way further down the river, likely looking for a little breakfast fish to start his day.
It’s about a five kilometre return trip from the Old Sackville Road entrance to the Bedford Place Mall. The trail is crusher dust and has a flat, even, accessible surface. There are also several benches to stop and enjoy the river, and a few bridges along the route offering stunning views. I meet several friendly people who seem to be on their regular morning dog walk, jog or stroll with friends.
Just past the rifle range, the trail takes me under the highway through a brightly painted tunnel and an overpass, and then goes beside a Bedford ballfield where it becomes a little quieter. Once at the mall the option is there to continue on through Bedford on this trail all the way to Scott Manor House (or, you know, if it’s a really hot day, to just stop at the True North Diner for a milkshake).
I’m not going to lie, this is not a quiet wander in the woods. This is an active transportation route designed to offer residents the option to walk between the communities instead of driving. It’s not a bad idea to bring a pair of headphones with nature sounds or soothing music to block out the surrounding noise. If you do that though, remember to look around and enjoy the beauty of the river. The Bedford Sackville Connector Greenway offers a rare front row seat to see community action at work nurturing a natural resource; and to see nature thriving, despite urban development, with a little help from its friends.
Back to the river
By Michelle Brunet | June 5, 2013
Walter Regan, president of the Sackville Rivers Association (SRA), remembers seeing something quite astonishing while participating in a river cleanup. Two tourists were walking straight through the middle of the Sackville River and carrying bikes over their shoulders. They explained they were trying to get to Halifax and didn’t want to get in trouble for walking over the Sackville-Bedford exchange.
This tourist sighting was, of course, before there was a recreational trail. “When we built the Bedford Sackville Connector Greenway, it was the first time in 40 plus years that you could legally walk between Bedford from Sackville,” Regan says.
The Fort Sackville Walkway (which starts at Scott Manor House in Bedford) and the Bedford Sackville Connector Greenway (which ends at the Fultz House in Sackville) make up the 5.2-kilometre trail that runs along the Sackville River. People can access the trail in various spots in addition to the trailheads, such as Fish Hatchery Park, Bedford Place Mall and Range Park.
Ann MacVicar, chair of the Fort Sackville Foundation, was one of the early leaders pushing to develop the trail. “We had envisioned a trail that went from Scott Manor House through to Fultz House and all the way up to Uniacke House,” she says. “That was our beautiful dream.” This dream was voiced in the 1980s by MacVicar and her fellow Bedford Recreation Commission sub-committee members, as well as Town of Bedford staff. MacVicar recalls the passion she shared with Town of Bedford planners John Malcolm, Donna Davis-Lohnes and Barry Zwicker, recreation director Bob Nauss, former HRM trails specialist Don Ambler, and members of the SRA Richard Peckham and Regan.
The mandate of the SRA, which manages and maintains the trail system, is to protect the Sackville River and its 150-square-kilometre watershed. They accomplish this in many ways, such as running experiential educational programs for elementary students, organizing regular river cleanups and restoration projects, and encouraging the public to use the conservation corridor (the trail).
“It didn’t take us long to realize that the public was disconnected from the Sackville River,” says Regan. “People just didn’t realize what a beautiful river it is.” When individuals have direct experiences with the river, Regan says, they are more driven to protect it. Both Regan and MacVicar emphasize that Peckham, the SRA’s volunteer trail coordinator, was key to seeing the trail become a reality.
“I got involved specifically to help bring people back to the river,” says Peckham. He says the Fort Sackville Walkway (from Scott Manor House to Range Park) was built first, and roughly took 10 years throughout the 1990s. Development of the Bedford Sackville Connector Greenway began roughly in 2000 and officially opened in 2006. “It took a while,” says Peckham. “It was before there was a general motivation in the public for trails.”
“That trail experience was not the only one, but one of the first in HRM,” he adds.
Today, Peckham still volunteers much of his time to the trail. He has been developing trailhead signs as well as interpretive panels that denote the Sackville River watershed and its vibrant ecosystem. “It puts the built environment where we all live and function within the context of the overall watershed,” he says.
Peckham says that trail walkers, runners and bikers—from families and friends, those commuting to work between Bedford and Sackville, dog walkers and moms pushing baby carriages—account for approximately 1,400 weekly trips on the trail, which is almost entirely wheelchair accessible.
Donna Gillroy accounts for at least two of these weekly trips. “We estimate it’s about five kilometres for the time it takes us to walk back and forth between the mall up to Sackville to where the trail ends at the trailer park [at Lynn Court],” she says, urging everyone to “try it!” MacVicar agrees, describing the serenity of her favourite portion of the trail on the Sackville end, past the 102/101 exchange. “In my mind, the beautiful part is when you get away from the traffic and you’re further along the Sackville River, heading up towards the Cobequid Road,” she says. “You really see the calmness of the river. It’s just like you’re in another world.”
Ambler, the HRM trails specialist who helped arrange for municipal funding and facilitated the contract work for the Sackville River Trail, is also a frequent trail user today. “I was on it this morning,” he says, referring to the portion that runs from the Bedford Place Mall, down Union Street, underneath the Bedford Highway to Fish Hatchery Park. “The trail has a lot of social value,” Ambler adds. “I see people interacting on the trail. They stop, they talk, they say ‘hi.’ In addition to the recreational value, it has a lot of community, social value for Bedford and Sackville.”
The number of collaborations that have formed because of the trail is endless, adds Peckham, including with the Bedford Place Mall, which provided funding to improve the portion of the trail on its property; DND, which allowed the use of part of their land; and the Bedford RBC branch, which regularly cleans a portion of the trail. Peckham says a number of SRA volunteers maintain the trail and act as trail monitors and ambassadors. The SRA would love to see more people fill these important roles, as well as come out for cleanups and river restoration events.
The original mandate of developing a trail to go all the way to Uniacke House remains, says Regan. He adds that part of this vision is adding adjoining side trails, and plans are already in the works for developing the Sackville Greenway. “We’re getting huge demand to carry the trail [from Fultz House] up the Little Sackville River…to the Beaver Bank Tracks,” he says. “For the next 10 years until I die, I’ll be working in that section.”
SRA would like to thank the Bedford Players who chose us as their Charity of Choice for their Anybody for Murder? show in May/June of this year. As part of the honor, the Bedford Players had recently presented to SRA a cheque for $1,333 stemming from the box office sales. Thank you to Bedford Players (many of our volunteers also enjoyed the shows as well).
The playbill for the show
From the playbill – the listing for the Charity of Choice
On Saturday June 4th, from 9am to 12 noon, we will be partnering with Babcock Canada Inc. to perform a cleanup in Bedford along the Sackville River and the Fort Sackville Walkway/Bedford-Sackville Connector Greenway between the Highway 102 overpass at Range Park and the SuperStore parking lot. We will be cleaning up the river itself, its banks, and the trail. Meet in the parking lot of True North Diner in Bedford Place Mall for 9am.
Picture from the cleanup that day. Note – although you cannot see them behind us, there were a large number of shopping carts removed from the river that day (16 in total in about 2 hours just in the stretch between Range Park and Superstore).