Working on behalf of our community

Chronicle-Herald June 4

Cole Harbour group minds their parks and trails

Sheryl Dubois

Volunteering takes many forms, and the Cole Harbour Parks and Trails Association (CHPTA) has something for everyone.


Designed for the modern volunteer, the Cole Harbour Parks and Trails Association (CHTPA) runs a stewardship program on Saturday mornings.

Advanced sign-up and membership are not required to volunteer, suiting people with dynamic schedules. Bring a friend or come with a small group. Work for an hour or stay until noon. Duties may include raking, picking up, clearing brush or mending bridges.

It’s informal, and everyone is welcome, according to Michael McFadden, chair of the association.

“We have a ‘high-tech’ checklist,” jokes McFadden describing the paper flip chart from which volunteers select their morning activity.

McFadden says the program is effective, allowing casual volunteers to contribute and getting vital items scratched off the list.


An avid trail user “for years”, McFadden started volunteering with CHTPA after Hurricane Juan (2003) just as he was on the cusp of retirement from a military career.

“I realized the trails don’t get cleaned on their own,” says McFadden, noting the picturesque paths after Juan were littered with fallen trees and branches, if not completely washed out.

Once he started to volunteer with CHPTA, he laughs, “the vortex sucked me in” and he has now served for more than 10 years.


A small group of concerned citizens formally incorporated CHPTA in 1998 to sustain and improve local parks and trails in and around Cole Harbour. The public used the trails for biking, walking, running, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

McFadden calls the core group of 15 or so unstoppable, hardcore, extremely dedicated volunteers.

They would have to be. The Cole Harbour Heritage Provincial Park alone is comprised of about 400 acres. The Salt Marsh Trail and Shearwater Flyer Trails round out their considerable responsibilities.

The mission requires volunteers to assure grants and other financial opportunities are in place every year to promote the parks and trails and to keep the land safe and accessible. Like the tide that transforms the saltwater marsh, the work never stops.

Indiana Jones

The full mandate of the CHPTA is broad in scope and includes interpretation of, for example, the Cole Harbour Heritage Park.

What is the history of the land in terms of flora, fauna, geology and human activity? To answer this question, at least in part, McFadden says CHPTA embarked on an archeological project about 10 years ago. Experts and students of archeology and many willing volunteers searched for remnants of the once standing Poor’s Farm, an institution he says was built in the early 1870s to house Halifax County’s so-called “harmlessly insane” and citizens destined for “debtors’ prison.” A fire in 1929 took it to the ground.

McFadden says volunteers delicately dug up and sifted through the site, square by square, cataloguing some 20,000 bits and pieces of old pipes, glassware and the good part of a teapot.

“You could come and be Indiana Jones for a day,” laughs McFadden.

Adopt, dedicate

There are other ways to support CHPTA short of volunteering time. McFadden invites people to adopt a metre of the Salt Marsh Trail or dedicate a bench, strategically placed along the trail, to encourage visitors to pause and take in the surroundings.

Visit to volunteer, offer support or learn more. You can also pop by 256 Bisset Road in Cole Harbour Saturday mornings.