Shared Trail Use
Based on communication and consultation with Nova Scotia Trails members and the trails community at large, NS Trails identified there has been evidence of contention regarding shared trail use in Nova Scotia. In the spirit of clarity and transparency, NS Trails Federation Board is providing a statement that reflects their position on shared use trail.
NS Trails supports the shared use of trails when, through a process of consultation and engagement with community members and the community of trail users, trail managers determine a variety of uses is appropriate for a particular trail.
The Nova Scotia Trails Federation (NS Trails) is made up of more than 100 trail stakeholders including volunteer-based trail managing groups, provincial trail user groups and municipalities. We serve as a resource and advocate for trail users and builders. Our diverse membership represents many different values, interests and mandates with respect to trails. Many of our member organizations are made up of volunteers who devote much of their free time to developing trail experiences that Nova Scotians and visitors are able enjoy. A significant number of our members manage shared use trails. Particularly in rural Nova Scotia, shared-use trails are a way to bring limited resources together. It can be a challenge to find the volunteers needed to manage a trail and allowing more uses increases the pool of potential volunteers.
NS Trails does not believe share use trails are right or wrong but rather how well they work is dependent upon many factors. Over the past forty years, community-based shared use trail developers have built an extensive, connected network of trail across Nova Scotia. These trails are important recreation and transportation amenities for many communities. Several shared use trails are promoted as tourist attractions in different regions of the province. Yet, while shared use trails are part of a great success story for trail development, NS Trails recognizes they are not ideal for all situations or all trail users.
Shared use trails are not without their challenges. With multiple user groups naturally comes more use and each group of users comes with its own impacts, both on the trail and on others.
Our members who manage shared use trails work to ensure their trail meets the needs of local communities and the community of users. Their trails often link together and, in such cases, regional trail needs must also be considered. The safety and enjoyment of all who use the trail must be the primary objective of any project. Decisions about trail use should be well-informed and made with the participation and support of trail users and the surrounding community to give the project the best chance of success.
NS Trails recognizes the value of shared use trails and supports their development under the right conditions. Trail managers must work closely with their communities and trail stakeholders to ensure plans for a variety of uses are broadly supported and that their trails are safe, sustainable and a benefit to those who use them and live near them. NS Trails looks forward to working with its members, trail stakeholders and government, to equip trail managers with the tools they need to plan and develop safe trail experiences that are an asset to the communities surrounding them and the communities that use them.