Nova Scotia

Google Maps error sends hikers through Herring Cove man's backyard

Paul Susnis lives beside a provincial park in Nova Scotia's Herring Cove. On sunny weekends, dozens of hikers have been making their way through his property, raising safety and privacy concerns.

Property appeared to be part of Nova Scotia's Herring Cove Provincial Park Reserve

Paul Susnis and his wife live on a park-like two-hectare plot next to the ocean in Nova Scotia's Herring Cove that is attracting hikers because of a Google Maps errors. 'We put private property signs and we will be putting no trespassing signs up,' he says. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

A Nova Scotia couple is fed up with dozens of hikers walking through their property because of a glitch on Google Maps.

For 25 years, Paul Susnis and his wife have lived on a park-like two-hectare plot next to the ocean in Herring Cove.

But lately, other people have had reason to find it park-like too, thanks to a detail on Google Maps that Susnis said has sent dozens of hikers around and through his property on sunny weekends.  

"We put private property signs and we will be putting no trespassing signs up," Susnis told CBC's Information Morning. "But even though there's signs, [hikers] look at their device and it says they're in a park. That's really kind of the core of the issue is, you know, what people are using for information."

The black outline shows the Susnis's property. You can see the trail going through the neighbouring park. The red dashes show where the trail led before CBC contacted Google which then changed the boundaries. (Google Maps)

'They walk right past our deck'

Until recently, on Google Maps, Susnis's property — much of which is wooded, with a cleared area for the house and yard — appeared to be part of the adjoining Herring Cove Provincial Park Reserve. 

On the map, a walking trail traces the coastline of the reserve, ultimately leading hikers straight through Susnis's small yard.

"They walk right past our deck.… This is 10 feet [just over three metres] from my house," he said.

"I mean, my sort of humorous reaction is, 'Is this a home invasion'? You know, because they're like, marching up to you and I don't know, I don't recognize them, I don't know them."

Susnis, 68, said he and his wife moved to Herring Cove for peace and quiet, but have found themselves directing traffic around their home. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

Susnis said the volume of hikers has increased over the last 10 years to the point where he has seen 20 or 30 people around his property on summer weekends, including hikers like the one who walked through Susnis's yard, trying to keep the blue dot indicating his global positioning satellite location directly on the trail.

"And I said, 'You know, there really is no trail here.' And he goes, 'What? Look, look,'" indicating his phone, Susnis said. 

Susnis also said he has tried to control the flow of traffic by stacking brush at the corner of his yard, but hikers would climb over that barrier, following the path laid out by their phones.

Hoping for rain

Susnis said the presence of hikers hasn't just been an issue from a privacy standpoint; it also poses safety and liability concerns. 

"We hope to have a rainy weekend sometimes, because we just want to have nothing happening."
 
He said he made numerous attempts to contact Google about the issue, but never received a response.

Google was contacted by CBC and said it had changed the boundaries of the park on the map so that the private residences were not in the park, and the walking trail stopped before Susnis's property.

"This kind of thing happens every so often," said Google Canada spokesperson Alexandra Hunnings Klein. "Maps is a fluid platform and we definitely ask that people who see any kind of problems with Maps report it to us.

"It's an integral part to us growing Maps and making sure that it's a clear, useful digital reflection of where Canadians are living and hiking and walking."

Change is progress 

Susnis said that the change was progress, but that he'd like to see the map changed further, as the park area still runs over part of his land.

In the meantime, he said, situations like these are inevitable as more people turn to the internet for guidance.

"People need outdoor recreation and they're going to find it, and there's resources to find it, but in this case they were getting wrong information." 

About the Author

Moira Donovan

Associate Producer

Moira Donovan is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. She's worked in Lyon, London and now reports from Halifax. She can be found on Twitter @MoiraDonovan

With files from CBC's Information Morning