Blue Route highlights Bicycle Nova Scotia's momentum

Celebrating the official launch of the first segment of the provincial cycling Blue Route on Aug. 6 in Pictou.

Things have really gotten into high gear for Bicycle Nova Scotia these past few months.

On Aug. 6, the organization officially launched the first segment of the Blue Route, (Nova Scotia’s provincial cycling network project), in collaboration with the Nova Scotia government. The inaugural section connects Pictou to East Mountain (Bible Hill) along segments of the provincial road network and the Jitney Trail. The entire route is 56 km in length, including 53 km on provincial roadways and 3 km on the Jitney Trail.

The launch in Pictou was attended by Minister Geoff MacLellan of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, and Mayor Joe Hawes of the Town of Pictou along with many cyclists and long time Blue Route supporters.

“Bicycle Nova Scotia had been working on the Blue Route for eight years since the idea first came about during the Nova Scotia Bicycle Summit. It was around the same time they were launching the Route Verte in Quebec, and people were inspired here in Nova Scotia,” explained Ben Buckwold, who works on Bikeways & Blue Route Implementation for Bicycle Nova Scotia.

“BNS has been working on the Blue Route ever since, so it was a big moment when the ribbon was cut on the first section. Our plan is to continue developing the Blue Route in stages, connecting trials with on-road infrastructure unitl we achieve a full, province-wide network.”

Once fully completed, the Blue Route (www.blueroute.ca) will span 3,000 km and connect communities through designated cycling routes on secondary highways with paved shoulders, low traffic volume roads, hard surfaced trails and city streets.

Buckwold said the vision is to build a network that connects communities across the province and provides a variety of experiences and opportunities.

“Our goal is to make the Blue Route relevant to people of all types and skill levels. Whether you are into multi-day touring, considering commuting by bicycle, or a family looking for a place to ride in comfort, we want the Blue Route to make riding in Nova Scotia easier and more enjoyable,” he said.

“The trails have been an asset for years and volunteers are always working to improve them and they’re great routes for bicycles. The Blue Route is a chance for Nova Scotia to start looking at pieces of our road network as biking assets as well. With strategic improvements like shoulder paving and signage, we can create something special for the province. We think it will be fantastic for the people who live here, and it can help establish our province as an international cycling destination."

Buckwold said they hope to continue building partnerships with the province, municipalities, First Nations communities, and trails organizations to connect bike routes to existing street networks.

“We think its got a lot of potential to make it easier for people to be physically active in Nova Scotia,” he said. “Riding a bike at some point in our lives is something that most of us have in common. Unfortunately many of us leave the bike in the garage as we get older, but if we create access to better infrastructure, we know there is a huge potential demand waiting out there.”  

Numbers aren’t available to provide insight into the growth of cycling in Nova Scotia, but Buckwold said from the perspective of most observers, more people are using bicycles for commuting and recreation.

“We don’t have really great data at the province wide level to say definitively that more people are riding bikes, but we see far more interest in bicycling culture around communities in Nova Scotia,” he said.

“At least 12 municipalities now have Active Transportation plans that included accommodations for bicycles.”

Buckwold said a lot of the attraction comes from the desire to increase physical activity levels, in addition to tourism and economic development potential.

“On one hand we have the high cost of physical inactivity to our healthcare system, and on the other is this growing bicycle and adventure tourism market out there,” he said.

To demonstrate the interest in cycling province-wide, Buckwold points to Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie (www.granfondobaiesaintemarie.ca/en/), a new event happening along Digby County’s French shore on Sept. 27.

It quickly garnered more than 350 registrants despite being in its inaugural year. Overwhelming interest has prompted organizers to reopen registration to accept up to 400 participants.

Buckwold also points to the increasing popularity of mountain biking and bicycle tourism as other ways to further expand the existing bicycling culture in the province.

“You get to experience Nova Scotia in a completely different way and more intimate way when you’re on a bike going by at 15 or 20 km/h instead of flying by on a 100 series highway,” he said.

 “This is the perfect province for bicycling because we have so many communities to explore. They’re dotted along beautiful coastlines, we have different regions with burgeoning local food cultures, vineyards and even breweries. There’s a lot to get out there and enjoy."

 The 10th Nova Scotia Bicycle Summit is taking place this fall in Kings County from Oct. 2 to Oct. 4. Buckwold expects that event to draw large crowds. A complete schedule is available at www.nsbikesummit.ca.

Celebrating the official launch of Nova Scotia's cycling Blue Route on Aug. 6 in Pictou.

NSORRA enjoys major growth in sport of off-road motorcycling

From NSORRA's Aug. 9 Hare Scramble Race at Hiltz Road. Photo courtesy of Kelso at dualsport.ca.

With a new president, a possible new park in the works and a record number of people getting involved in the sport, the Nova Scotia Off Road Riders Association (NSORRA) is living up to its mandate of growing and developing recreational and competitive off road motorcycling in the province. 

“We have our highest membership to date with 767 members in the last year alone. The year before we were closer to 600 members,” said NSORRA’s executive director Victoria Josey. “And our numbers are growing again for this year.”

NSORRA’s new president, Grant Lingley, believes one of the forces increasing membership is the number of events being hosted by the organization. There were five well-attended events held during the past year that even attracted riders from PEI and Newfoundland.

Race director Stewart Colquhoun implemented an efficient electronic scoring system. At race events, every rider gets a bar code on their helmet which is read as riders go through the track. Results are recorded in real time, and riders get an immediate sense of their performance.

“The sport is growing dramatically here as a result of the Hare Scrambles. We’ve had a record number of participants at every event, and when you grow you want to build a great product,” he said. “We have had to establish classes for young people so we even now have a Pee Wee class with little ones who look like they’re all helmets.”

Lingley said the demand for classes ranging from pee wee through to school age, intermediate, expert and 40 plus speaks to the broad demographics of their sport.

More women and girls are also taking up off road motorcycling, and Lingley said that is increasing the sport’s profile as a family-oriented activity.

“If you wanted your son or daughter to ride, mom or dad would often sit on the sidelines,” he said. “Now often mom, dad and the kids are doing the safety course and then all riding together.”

Lingley said another factor contributing to the growth of their sport is the fact bike parks are located throughout the province.

“We have five ride parks across the province used by both men and women, so people are not limited to one specific geographic location. And a lot of thought goes into these parks so there’s minimal impact on the environment,” Lingley explained.

“We have Miller Meadow behind the (Halifax) airport, one in Cape Breton and three in the Valley.. And they’re located in places where they’re not a bother to others.”

The organization also hopes to open a new bike park, Fox Gully, in Economy.

“That area is under construction now and would give people on the other side of the province more access,” said Josey. “Only Miller Meadow is limited in that the gate has to be open for rider access, but basically everywhere else you can ride from dawn to dusk.”

The organization’s DirtBike School is described as a “practical introduction to Off-Highway Motorcycle” for new riders but also a “good refresher” for experienced riders to practice sometimes forgotten or unused skills and techniques. 

Lingley said the course is great fun and has been highly successful introducing more people to the sport.

“Off road riding really is a family sport with moms, dads, boys and girls all out riding,” he said. “If you want competitive, we have that. If not, we have trails they can ride on."

At Miller Meadow in Halifax, bikes and equipment are available for training purposes for those who want to try the sport but aren’t sure if they’re ready to make an investment.

“We’re doing some work to see where the growth is coming from but in many cases it is breaking down barriers, making people aware it’s not as expensive when compared to the cost of more traditional sports,” Lingley said.

“And families get away from computers and games, get outside and go trail riding together. It creates a really great family atmosphere.”

NSORRA partnered with ATVANS and SANS to conduct a socio-economic survey asking riders about their habits when riding snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs and side by sides) and off-road motorcycles. That survey closed Aug. 10. The results, available later this summer, will help support the growth of all three sports.

Lingley said relationships with other stakeholders including landowners, the bicycling community and community groups, is helping increase trail use across the board.

“If we have more cross pollination of different groups I think it will help everyone understand we all use the trails in different ways and we all enjoy the outdoors and we all want to get as many of us out there as possible,” he said.

“We have agreements in place with landowners. It’s a nice mix of us working with landowners to develop, maintain and build the trails even more.”

To learn more about upcoming events, including the Aug. 30 Hare Scramble and the Sept. 13 Drive to Ride, visit NSORRA’s webpage, www.nsorra.ca

 From NSORRA's Aug. 9 Hare Scramble Race at Hiltz Road. Photo courtesy of Kelso at dualsport.ca.

NS Trails welcomes Halifax mayor Mike Savage as Trans Canada Trail champion

July 10, 2015 (Halifax, NS) – The Nova Scotia Trails Federation (NS Trails) is pleased to welcome Halifax Mayor, Mike Savage to a growing list of Trans Canada Trail (TCT) Government Champions across Canada. “Mayor Savage’s support of the Trail will help boost the profile of this project as NS Trails and our member partners work toward meeting the impending connection deadline,” said Blaise MacEachern, Chair of the NS Trails TCT Committee. NS Trails has been the provincial partner for the TCT in Nova Scotia since the project was initiated in 1992.

A Banner Year for ATVANS

With growing membership and increased interest in their sport, the past year has been a busy one for the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Nova Scotia (ATVANS).

Among other initiatives, the group has invested a significant amount of money and time digitizing all of its trails on maps and grids.

“Our trails coordinator Corey Robar along with one of our contractors has been busy working getting things into a digital format so we can narrow down what we are missing from the trail network,” says ATVANS executive director Barry Barnet.

“Altogether we probably have several thousand kilometres of trail that we would have land use agreements on or have exclusive authority. Plus we have another two or three thousand kilometres on top of that.”

In addition to helping them hammer down the amount of trail across their membership network, Barnet says the initiative will make it easier for members to produce trail guides, focus on resolving connectivity issues and help with funding applications.

Another initiative undertaken by ATVANS this past year was the development of its first multi-year strategic plan.

“This gives us a little more direction,” Barnet explains.

“The plan followed a membership-wide survey on issues and that has led to an initiative of reaching out to government to find ways to address some of our concerns with respect to the OHV act and how we are operating.”

Membership in the organization is strong. Barnet says they’re holding steady at 39 member clubs, the highest number they’ve ever had.

“Last year we had just about 3,000 members and we count membership by the number of machines. That probably represents closer to 5,000 people,” he says. 

Barnet says while the sport isn’t growing in larger provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta, it is increasing in popularity here in Nova Scotia.

“In 2014 we saw 12 per cent growth in sales of new machines year over year,” he says.  “One of the other things we’ve seen is a big shift in our sport of events getting bigger and bigger. We’ve seen some of our regional events attracting 1,000 machines.”

In addition to the fact it tends to be a family-oriented activity, Barnet said it caters to nature lovers, an aging demographic and those with mobility issues.

“If you have any kind of mobility issues there is no other way to experience that trail experience, and to some extent I personally fall into that category,” Barnet says.

“When you look at the demographics of our membership, they are typically middle aged, middle income folks with common interests like hunting and fishing. They also often have a nature background or nature-related experience.”

The increasing numbers of families and people with mobility issues also accounts in part for the increased sales of side-by-side machines.

“The advent of side-by-sides has brought a whole new group of people to our sport. Husbands and wives can sit side-by-side and have conversations now for example,” Barnet says.

“It has also created that opening to deal with mobility issues. Right now we have about two-thirds of members on traditional ATVs with one-third having side-by-sides.”

Barnet said his organization, like many others, is always looking for ways to encourage greater youth participation. Last year ATVANS created a youth volunteer of the year award. This year’s award was recently handed out to 13-year-old Adam Berry of the Central Nova ATV Club.

“He has been involved with his club since 2007, so that means he was just seven years old when he started,” Barnet says.

“Adam, along with his father and grandfather, work on trails. And he works hard. He also helps organize events and he’s not even legal driving age yet. This is the kind of initiative we like to encourage.”

Snowmobilers enjoy best winter in recent memory

Enjoying the snow in Baddeck

The large dumps of snow that blanketed the province and wreaked havoc on snow removal budgets this winter created great conditions for snowmobiling.

“I’ve been snowmobiling since the 1960s and I can’t honestly remember a season like this,” said Stan Slack, president of the Snowmobilers Association of Nova Scotia (SANS). “It was a little late starting, but (in) mid-April groomers are still operating and people are still snowmobiling. This has been province-wide.”

 

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Founders Trail officially opens in Trenton Park

Photo above:  "Parting of the Boughs" ceremony at the official opening of Founders Trail in Trenton Park. (Left to right): David Hoffman, Director Trans Canada Trail Foundation; Trenton Mayor, Glen MacKinnon, Trenton Town Councillor, Fergie MacKay;  Sally O'Neill, Active Pictou County; and Wilson Cameron, NS Trails Director.

Founders Trail in Trenton park was officially opened on Valentine's Day with a “Parting of the Boughs” ceremony.  This newest section of Trans Canada Trail (TCT) in Nova Scotia brings the Nova Scotia Trails Federation (NS Trails), a step closer to reaching our 2017 connection deadline. NS Trails is the provincial partner for the Trans Canada Trail in Nova Scotia and our partners and volunteers are working hard in communities like this one across the province to connect gap sections of the TCT in time for Canada's 150th birthday celebrations.

This project was particularly exciting because of the involvement of the Nova Scotia Youth Conversation Corps.  “If our community trails across the province are to be sustainable into the future, we need more youth volunteers,” said Wilson Cameron, a Director with the Nova Scotia Trails Federation (NS Trails). “NS Trails invites youth and all Nova Scotians to help us connect our province to this national legacy trail connecting over 1,000 communities from coast to coast.”

So far the Trans Canada Trail has contributed more than $20,000 to greenway trail development in the park and has approved an additional $40,000 for Phase 3 of the project.

Federal government announces funding for Trans Canada Trail in Oxford

 

February 15, 2015-Mr. Scott Armstrong MP announced today the Federal Government’s funding support for building a further section of the Trans Canada Trail through the Town of Oxford, with a $130,000 grant. This funding is being provided through the National Trails Coalition as part of a national initiative to build Trail throughout the country, creating facilities for community recreation, promoting health and wellness and creating the infrastructure to enable tourism and economic development along the Trail.

This trail will extend the Oxford to Wallace rails to trails line to Main Street in the town of Oxford, including the crossing of the River Philip with a splendid signature structure. In due course, the Trail will further connect Oxford, the Trans Canada Trail and the rest of the Province to the New Brunswick border.

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NS Trails hires Trans Canada Trail engagement officer for Cape Breton

October 10, 2014 – The Nova Scotia Trails Federation (NS Trails), as the recognized agent for the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) in Nova Scotia, is pleased to announce the hiring of Jessica Farrell as our Cape Breton Trans Canada Trail Engagement Officer. Farrell will be responsible for advancing the connection of waterway routes and land trail on Cape Breton Island.

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National Trans Canada Trail reps meet Nova Scotia's TCT champions in Cape Breton

March 27, 2014 -­‐ Key Trans Canada Trail volunteers and stakeholders from across the province gathered at the Gaelic College in St. Anns over the weekend to assist NS Trails in finalizing plans for the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) route through Nova Scotia.

Deborah Apps, President and CEO of the Trans Canada Trail, attended the event and thanked the volunteers and stakeholders for the work being done to connect the Trail in Nova Scotia by 2017, the 150th anniversary of Confederation. "We are committed to connecting the Trail and Canadians from coast to coast to coast by 2017 and look forward to being a centerpiece for national events celebrating our wonderful country," said Ms. Apps. "Our Nova Scotia partner NS Trails and all our Trail supporters in the province are vital to connecting the TCT in Nova Scotia and to helping us reach our 2017 connection goal."

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Halifax to Lunenburg trail funding announcement

Outdoor Opportunities Await on Halifax to Lunenburg Trail

Destination Trail to Stretch 109km

January 17, 2014 - St. Margaret’s Bay, NS

   

Nova Scotia is upgrading, unifying and branding seven of its trails as a new outdoor adventure tourism product: a continuous 109km hiking and cycling route from Halifax to Lunenburg. The destination trail will be promoted as a new way for visitors to experience two of the province’s most popular destinations—and all the scenic communities in between. 

Representatives from each of the seven trail systems have formed the Halifax to Lunenburg Steering Committee to spearhead the project, which includes the development of a trail brand, wayfinding signs, information kiosks, improved access points, amenity and rest areas and a mobile-compatible website. The committee is collaborating with communities along the trail corridor and using local suppliers for goods and services related to the project. 

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