Wednesday, 1 November 2017

News from the Park - always busy

Bissett trail is now open - Halifax Water commission was fixing a water main break but had everything cleaned up and back in order the same day.

Heavy construction work will occur on the Salt Marsh Trail in mid-November as we restore another section to a better protected trail. The trail will be closed from the Canada Goose bridge to the West Lawrencetown Road during the working day due to the presence of heavy equipment. Signs and barriers will be in place. For your own safety and the safety of the workers, CHPTA asks everyone to obey the signage.

Annual maintenance of the trail surface on the Salt Marsh Trail is being conducted on the section from Bissett Road to the Canada Goose Bridge and from Flying Point to landfall on the eastern part of the trail across the causeway. The work involves grading the surface, infilling areas where the crusher dust surface is too thin or absent with attendant raking and smoothing out. There may be some soft areas as the crusher dust settles into place. The grading has been completed and we have noted several areas where the larger underlying rocks are making for a rougher but passable surface. It is these rocky areas that will get further treatment.

Most visitors to the Park are familiar with the two new utility buildings at the main entrance. The Facility building (closest to the trails) will be used for meetings, as an interpretation centre and an event venue. Holly Woodill has taken on the project of creating and setting up interpretative material in the facility building that will show the rich natural and social history of the Park and the surrounding areas.  The other building houses the maintenance workshop and storage area. This welcome addition to the Park Infrastructure has allowed us to consolidate all our tools, equipment and materials in one place. Several of our members who have been storing CHPTA material since the tragic fire that destroyed the Red Barn, are quite happy to get their garages, basements and storage sheds back for their own use.

We have just completed a preliminary engineering inspection of all the bridges on the Shearwater Flyer. All the bridges can accept the regular trail traffic, pedestrians and ATVs but only one (Desaid Lake bridge) can take small maintenance trucks. Some of these bridges date back more than a century so it is not surprising that they will need a little (a lot) of TLC to bring them up to speed. CHPTA is awaiting the final engineering report but is already planning to restore bridges starting next spring and summer.

Many trail users have noted and complained about the increasing amount of damage on the Flyer caused by renegade ATV traffic going off and coming on to the Flyer at unauthorized points. The entry and exit point is located at the parking lot at the Caldwell/Hines Road intersection. It has been distressing to see this irresponsible behaviour causing damage in adjoining wetlands, marshes and watercourses. Anyone seeing illegal activity - basically any ATV going on or off the Flyer at any place other than the entry/exit point, is asked to call 311 or Halifax Police at 902-490-5020. In addition (or instead), please drop us a note (email or phone). CHPTA is also concerned that our neighbours' lands are being torn up by ATVs using the Flyer. Next year, a major part of our maintenance work will concentrate on repairing this damage and implementing measures to reduce this vandalism. Any ideas on how to accomplish this task will be welcomed.

Due to a change in telephone plans and lack of use, the facsimile (Fax) number for CHPTA will cease operation effective 31 October 2017. The voice telephone number (including voice mail) remains 902-435-3952 and the email address remains

Tuesday, 24 October 2017


Cole Harbour Parks and Trails Association is a member of the Our Halifax Alliance. They are asking for help in a letter writing campaign, which they've made very easy.  The website with the specific information can be found at Green Belt Letter writing campaign. We encourage all our members and friends to participate. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Titus Smith

I've been interested in 19th century Nova Scotia naturalist Titus Smith for a while.  I went to the provincial archives a few weeks ago and looked at the microfilmed journals from 1801-2.  The archivist was sure they had been transcribed, but couldn't find a reference.  The handwriting is lovely, but daunting.

Persistent searching led me to four copies of a typewritten document at the library of Natural Resources.  It was made in 1955 by a forester named Lloyd Hawboldt, who was surely an unusual thinker.  His transcript focuses on geography and forestry, evidently leaving out a lot of detail about plants and ecology.

DNR kindly sent me a scan, and Adobe did a plausible job of OCR.

For sheer historical interest, you ought to take a look.  It's about 40 pages, and begins with a letter from Lieutenant Governor Wentworth:

"Your principal object in this survey will be to visit the most unfrequented parts, particularly the banks and the borders of the different rivers, lakes and swamps, and the richest uplands, for the purpose of discovering such spots as are best calculated for producing hemp, and furnishing other Naval Stores. You will make your remarks on the soil, the situation of the-lands, and the species, quality and size of the timber, the quantity of each sort also, and the facility with which it can be removed to market. The thickness and length of mast timber, you will attend to in an especial manner, and in every place which you shall deem calculated for these purposes, you will as near as possible estimate the quantity of acres, the possibility and means of rendering them fit for cultivation either by banks, drains or otherwise."

This was before Lewis and Clark. Here are the basics:


Smith mentions moose, caribou, beaver, old-growth, fire, flood, barrens.  He was truly a born ecologist.  The KML files of tracks and journal entries, which you can view in Google Earth and which I'm still working on, are available for download.  If you are familiar with Google Earth, you can fly the tracks or play the journal entries in sequence.  If you do anything interesting, please let me know.

Smith's original map has been scanned by the archives:

The journals are a trove, and some enterprising PhD candidate could use modern text analysis tools to create a picture of 19th century Nova Scotia.  Here are word clouds from the three tours:



There are a lot of flattering references to Smith as a very early ecologist, including a JSTOR reference. I've transcribed Titus Smith : "the Dutch village philosopher", pioneer naturalist of Nova Scotia, 1768-1850." an address by Harry Piers, of the Nova Scotia Institute of Science in 1936

Smith, of course, was the mentor of artist Maria Morris Miller, whose lovely wildflower portraits grace the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia:

By all accounts, Smith is the Thoreau of Nova Scotia.  Can anyone point me to more sources?

Gus Reed

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

More Reason to Celebrate

Saturday, August 26 we are having a barbecue to thank volunteers who work so tirelessly on your park. Festivities start at 10 AM with kids installing bird, bee and butterfly houses they have made this summer. It promises to be a fun time, with music, food and family activities.

Your volunteers have just been handed the keys to the building shells that have replaced the Big Red Barn, so we'll have shade and shelter.

They were built using insurance money that DNR won after the disastrous arson that destroyed our beloved Red Barn in 2011.

CHPTA fought to have a replica structure built because the Big Red Barn was such an icon in the area.  Preservation of the Red Barn was included in the 1986 agreement that transferred the park from Halifax County to the province. Plans were drawn up, but in the end the province was not willing or able to provide any funding beyond the insurance settlement.

One building shell will be used for maintenance work and storage while the second shell will be used for events and interpretation work. Access to the two building shells allows CHPTA to bring its material and equipment back to the Park where it can be used for our maintenance and public support work. While we lost over $22,000 in material and equipment, much of that has been restored using various funding sources but had to be kept in members homes and garages. Having a place to work from with materials and equipment at hand is a long overdue step in our work in the Park and throughout our over 26 kms of trails.
While the two structures are not a replacement for the Red Barn but are none-the-less welcomed as a means to better carry out our mandate.

You can read the history of the BRB (Big Red Barn) here.