Nova Scotia

Seawall Trail project in Cape Breton gains support

The people behind the concept of developing a 50-to-100 kilometre trail in northern Cape Breton have taken a big step toward realizing that goal.

Society working on plan for trail to connect Pleasant Bay with Meat Cove

Seawall Trail Society board member David Williams enjoys the spectacular beauty of northern Cape Breton. (Courtesy of David Williams)

The people behind the concept of developing a 50- to 100-kilometre trail in northern Cape Breton have taken a big step toward realizing that goal.

The Seawall Trail Society was formed in 2014 to explore the idea of creating a wilderness path that would connect Pleasant Bay with Meat Cove.

"There's been a lot of development since then," said society board member David Williams. "We've had an extensive set of public consultations around the island, and also we had an information session in Halifax."

Williams, who describes the area as "epic" in its spectacular, rugged beauty, said a request for proposals has been released. It asks consultants or qualified individuals to bid on performing the preliminary fieldwork before a final route is decided upon.

"It's a big job," he said. "Looking for great viewpoints, looking for those wet areas that you want to avoid, places where you may need a bridge, boardwalk, that type of thing."

'There will be no construction'

The successful candidate will also have to use a collaborative approach, take local concerns into consideration and be aware of protecting the environment, said Williams.

"There will be no construction, no manipulation of the protected area at all," he said, adding that creating a path will still be tedious work. "Lots of bushwacking, miles of alders to plow through."

The Seawall Trail Society has raised about $40,000 in just a few months, he said, including grants from Victoria and Inverness counties, Mountain Equipment Co-op, and donations from individuals. Funding requests have also been sent to the province and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The development plan on the society's website calls for the first stage, which includes consultation, initial marketing and trail development plans, to be completed by the summer of 2017. The first stage is expected to cost between $75,000 and $125,000, depending on consulting fees.

Expedition already booked

A woman picks her way along the future Seawall Trail in northern Cape Breton. (Scott Cunningham/Coastal Adventures)

Williams is particularly excited that even before any marketing has begun a national organization has already booked an expedition to the trail in June 2017.

The True Patriot Love Foundation is a non-profit group whose mandate is to raise funds for veterans and their families, especially those who have been injured either mentally or physically while serving.

"One of the ways they do that is to put out expeditions. They've been to some amazing places, they've been to Antarctica and the Magnetic North Pole," said Williams.

He said True Patriot Love has chosen the Seawall Trail as one of a series of Canadian wilderness areas it will visit in 2017 to mark Canada's 150th birthday.

With files from Information Morning