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Funding earmarked for Graves Island improvements

by Adam Jacobs

The walking trail around Graves Island likely will be open next summer, three years after it was closed.
 EAST CHESTER - Almost three years after it was closed to the public, the Graves Island walking trail promises to be open next season should things go as planned, says a government official.

 The trail was closed in 2007 after nearly 10 acres of trees were felled on the island in a successful attempt to eradicate the spruce bark beetle.

 The province, owner of the island park, used the tree felling as an opportunity to redevelop the park's amenities as well as to reintegrate a traditional Acadian forest to the island.

 However, money was tight and the reintegration of the trail got put on hold.

 But, Harold Caroll, director of parks and recreation for the Department of Natural Resources, confirms the work is scheduled to begin soon.

 "Thanks to the federal-provincial stimulus program we now have some money to implement some major trail improvements," he said. "And we hope to begin as soon as possible."

 In fact, the tender process is under way, he added.

 "Which is why we don't want to say at this point how much money we've received for the project," Mr. Carroll said. "We don't want to compromise the bidding process."

 The money will go toward trail improvements and upgrades of roughly two to two and a half kilometres of trails.

 "The trail circles the island," Mr. Carroll said. "We're also going to build some connector trails to the camps and the administration building that didn't previously exist."

 Graves Island, which also includes a campground, sees almost 4,000 visitors annually and is the second most popular provincial park in Nova Scotia, just behind Rissers Beach. Hundreds more use it each season as a walking trail - at least they did before the trail was closed.

 Brad Armstrong, Chester municipal councillor and one of Graves Island's biggest supporters, said he was very happy to hear about the money.

 "I think it's great," he said. "This has been a long time coming. It was always the plan to reintegrate the walking trail. It just took longer than we had hoped. But, now that the process has begun, it's very exciting."

 Mr. Armstrong, a noted conservationist, was heavily involved in the recent tree felling and the redesign of the island park.

 Former local MLA Jim Barkhouse said he was also pleased to hear about the proposed trail improvements.

 In recent months he has led an initiative to help prevent erosion on the island.

 He said he hopes this will in part help that issue as parts of the trail border the shoreline.

 Although promised about three years ago, the trail renovations almost didn't happen even this season.

 There was no expected money for the project until midsummer.

 "But some money from the stimulus program got reallocated," Mr. Carroll said. "Luckily, we had some of the design work already done, some plans were drawn up, and we were able to get an application ready in time."

 The money, previously allocated to other projects, was redistributed because those projects didn't materialize, he added.

 It comes with a catch, however. The project must be completed by March 31 in order to receive funding.

 Mr. Carroll said given the scope of the work, it shouldn't be a problem.

 "It's not an overly complicated job," he said. "The only delays would likely be caused by the weather. And even then we can still proceed with much of the work. Hopefully this will be ready for next season."

posted on 11/09/10
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