Maintenance Partnership Being Proposed by St. Margaret’s Bay Area Rails to Trails

Originally published in the Masthead News December 2nd issue.

As is known by all who use it, the St. Margaret’s Bay Rails to Trails (SMBARTA) serves a variety of people—pedestrians, cyclists, ATVers, equestrians, cross country skiers, and more.

It provides us with an escape from busy lives and offers the opportunity to stay active while connecting with nature and our community.
By 2015, the Trail was in sad condition, with potholes and washouts being the norm.

Luckily for our community, Anne Patrick and Rick Muzyk took on the challenge of renewing the Trail.

After putting in thousands of hours and writing over 40 grant applications, they received $650,000, allowing the complete recapitalization of the Trail by 2018.

This extraordinary accomplishment led to Anne and Rick receiving two provincial awards from the Nova Scotia Trails Federation.

Fast forward to 2020–our Trail is in excellent shape and continues to be a beloved community attraction, receiving an estimated 80,000 visits per year.

With the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, keeping our Trail safe and well maintained is more important than ever for our mental and physical health.

That being said, maintaining the current condition of the trail continues to be challenging, with maintenance costing approximately $75,000 per year.

In addition to this hefty price tag, there are countless hours of strategy building, fundraising, grant writing, progress reports, board meetings, events, and project management—all taking place behind the scenes.

It’s hard to believe that our small yet loyal group of volunteers have stayed so dedicated to the upkeep of our gorgeous 32.5km trail.

This exhaustive amount of work has put immense pressure on the board and they are struggling to uphold the exceptional condition of the Trail.

The time has come for government to handle the maintenance of the Trail, which makes up 18% of the entire HRM trail inventory.

Thus, it was not without great deliberation and investigation that SMBARTA has entered into discussions with the provincial and municipal governments to take the lead on maintenance of the Trail.

This agreement, while still under discussion, will allow the government to take over the maintenance of the Trail, allowing the Trail Association to focus on stewardship and promotion.

We all know that the Trail wouldn’t be in the shape it’s in without the dedicated help of its users.

These users enjoy the Trail in a variety of ways—some have engines, some have pedals, others have manes, some have cross country skis, but members of all groups have helped build and support the Trail for more than 20 years.

This is why it was imperative to SMBARTA to include a clause in the agreement to guarantee and protect the rights of all the established user groups.

In addition to this agreement, we would like to call out to the community and ask for your commitment to translate your appreciation into concrete action, such as serving on the Board.

We have big plans for the Trail and we’d like to hear yours too.

It is only through your involvement that this Trail will continue to flourish.

Our AGM will take place virtually on Monday, December 7th, at 7:00 p.m.

If you would like more information on the partnership agreement, becoming a board member or have any other questions, please email us at mail@stmargaretsbaytrails.com.