A canal commission in Nova Scotia warns the public could be on the verge of losing the only spot to portage between Lake Thomas and Lake Fletcher in Fall River.

For decades people who paddle a canoe into Lake Fletcher and beyond have had to make a short portage past historic lock four, used in the original Shubenacadie Canal system in the mid-1800s.​

Gordon Warnica, who uses the area, said the portage is essential because the rapids are unusable, even for experienced paddlers.   

"I don't know how you'd get by. It's like an ongoing right-of-way that now we're going to close off?" he said.

"I think the province — and the province is the people — we have one chance to do this right."

Fall River Portage

The Shubenacadie Canal Commission says part of the area overlaps with a plot of land that is designated as "owner unknown." (CBC)

The sliver of land is classified as owner unknown, although it was originally infilled during the construction of the Shubie Canal.

Deborah Windsor, chair of the commission, said the adjacent land owner is trying to claim a portion of that land.

"They have not, in our opinion, had exclusive and continuous use of that land. Although they have tried to limit access by putting up no trespassing signs," she said.

Agnes Garnett says she's only applied for part of the property and doesn't believe her claim will prevent public access.

The land was recognized in 1976 under the Special Places Act because of the historic lock.

The province said it's trying to come up with a solution that will work for both sides.

Members of the Canal Commission plan to meet with the minister of natural resources on Tuesday to ask that the land be designated Crown land so the public will continue to have access.

With files from The Canadian Press