Did you know that UNBSJ has walking trails behind the university? Neither did I, until a few weeks ago.
Students’ Representative Council (SRC) president, Brad Trecartin, wasn’t surprised when I admitted that I had no clue of the existence of UNBSJ’s trails until recently. “It’s not really promoted to the students, no one really knows they exist,” he says, adding that the trails are “a great asset that we’re underutilizing.” This fall, the SRC is working with the Biology Society and Green Society to promote the trails for the campus community.
In past years, the trails have been in the care of the Biology Society, but had fallen into disuse recently and become overgrown. In August, a team of volunteers from the Biology Society, Green Society, and SRC got together for a walkthrough of the trails to assess their current state and discuss how to increase their use.
Biology Society president, Tim Barton, stated that the focus of this group was “primarily making the trails more visible and accessible, as they had grown over a fair amount over the years.” The team of volunteers successfully removed several dead trees that were at risk of falling across the trail. The team also spread 8 tonnes of gravel at the entrance of the trail leading from Kennebecasis Dr., and opened up the trail in narrow areas by removing smaller shrubs and saplings.
Where are the trails and where do they lead?
There are two entrances to the trails that begin on the UNBSJ campus. The first is behind the residences and Athletics Center, but is barely accessible to students because of construction debris. Getting to the second entrance is a hike in itself, since it is at the back of the parking lot. This trailhead is also a bit of a challenge to get to; be prepared to traverse a ditch to reach the start of the trail. Never fear, once over these initial hurdles, the trails themselves are in good condition and ready for use.
The trail runs through UNBSJ’s property to Kennebecasis Dr., ending near the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club. From here, it is a quick five minute walk down the road to Tucker Park and the beach. The direct trail is about one kilometer to Kennebecasis Dr., and there is another loop in the woods that adds one kilometer. All told, this walk could be a brief 30-40 minute reprise from studying or a chance to get some fresh air between classes. Another smaller trail leads directly to Tucker Park, but it is completely overgrown, and likely will not be widened this year.
Despite rumours that the trails connect with Rockwood Park and lead to Lily Lake, SRC executives that walked the trail did not find any connection to Rockwood Park. There are some smaller, overgrown trails that lead in the direction of Cranberry Hill (overlooking the Rockwood Park Golf Course). They did not find any trails that would lead to the Cherry Brook Zoo to connect with the greater trail network of Rockwood Park. More adventurous students may want to explore these trails, but you are at your own risk and some parts of the trail cross through private property, so it is not recommended.
What is the current plan for making the trails more accessible to students?
Firstly, Trecartin wants to improve accessibility to the trails by constructing a footbridge across the ditch at the back of the parking lot. Although the trail access by the residences is closer, cleaning up that area is not feasible at this time; however, building a footbridge is a worthwhile and feasible project. Trecartin estimates that the footbridge will cost the SRC approximately $2,200, but this project will be completed by a UNBSJ student.
Unfortunately, construction is not moving forward because the proposal for the footbridge is stymied by administration, who have their hands full with larger projects. Trecartin says that administration “[seems] to be interested and supportive in the project,” although his proposal has been gathering dust since July. He hopes to get the process started in the next couple of weeks, so that they can get the contractor on site early in the fall.
Trecartin assured me that eventually administration will back the project; “When they get the time to work with us, they will.” In the future, the Biology Society and the SRC would like to have signs to indicate the trails, as well as a stand to hold some maps of the trails in the area.
The SRC would also like to get students involved in improving the UNBSJ trail system. First year students enrolled in UNIV 1003, “Everything I need in First Year”, participate in a community project as a part of their course. The four professors teaching the class have chosen the UNBSJ trails as this year’s project because it will help their students become involved on campus, get to know the SRC, and give back to campus in a concrete way which they can appreciate for years to come.
Each class has the opportunity to design a project to improve the trail system based on their skills and talents, such as adding picnic tables, benches and garbage cans along the trail, building a welcome sign to increase visibility of the trail, or work on marketing the trails to the campus community. This has the potential to become a larger community project, as Ray O’Donnell, a teacher at Saint Malachy’s High School, has offered to have his woodworking class construct the benches and picnic tables for the trails.
Will the trails be open during the winter?
The trails will be open for winter adventurers to try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, but they will not be groomed. SRC president, Brad Trecartin said that the SRC may look into purchasing some snowshoes for the Athletics Department which students can borrow for a day.
The Biology Society is planning to do a walk-through of the trails later in September or early October; if you would like to get involved in maintaining the trail, get in touch with Tim Barton (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
In addition, if you have ideas of how the trails could be improved for students and the public, please let the Biology Society, Green Society, or SRC know! A lot of planning is still in the works, but for the meantime, get out and walk, run, bike, and enjoy these trails.