EASTPORT PENINSULA, N.L. – Work is underway to construct and connect a network of trails along the Eastport Peninsula.
With a background in forestry and engineering, project coordinator Kevin Robinson had a keen interest in Eastport’s hiking trails since he moved to the area in 1988.
In the past, Robinson has approached the communities of the area to develop a network of trails, but he says at first there was little interest.
“I use to go out on my own and clear out the windfall and maintain the trails,” he said. “It wasn’t until I brought the idea of linking the trails to the Road to the Beaches and looked at this as a tourism venture that the investments came.”
The Road to the Beaches Tourism Association is a collective of tourism operators in the Eastport area. With the initiative from Robinson and growing interest in the province’s tourism industry, activity soon began to further develop the area’s trail potential.
After an environmental assessment that resulted in successful funding applications from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the provincial and federal government, hands-on-the-ground work began with the trails in the spring of 2017.
“It’s a mix of pre-existing and brand new trails,” said Robinson. “Some trails are getting freshened up with boardwalks and general maintenance and some are getting built from scratch.”
With plentiful lumber to replace boardwalks and railing, many hauls of gravel and rock over steep and rugged terrain, chainsaws and other tools to clean out the overgrown areas, and plentiful paperwork to access the trails through each municipality – the work to develop these trails is a daunting endeavor.
“The logistics are brutal,” Robinson said. “This is sweat, flies, high heat, kilometres of hiking each day – not the greatest working conditions.”
Bringing thousands of pounds of rock and gravel over the often rough and barren trails has resulted in some considerable damage to trailers and tires. Robinson and crew are now using ATVs to tackle these tougher areas.
The project currently consists of approximately eight trails, several in Salvage that extend to Sandy Cove and other coastal coves along the way, extending beyond that into the Happy Adventure area.
By the end of this fall, Robison hopes the crew will have the completed trails from Salvage to the five-kilometre trek to an area called Barrow Harbour.
“We’re going to try and finish these small pieces of trails first, and leave the major new trail for next year,” he said. “From Barrow Harbour to Sandy Cove – that’s 2019.”
Work on the trails around Happy Adventure is also projected for this year, though the crew are waiting for a permit to go through.
Robinson says they are also working to ensure the first kilometer of their Salvage trail is accessible to everyone, so that anyone from age eight to 80 can manage the steps. Further out, as the trail leads off into back countries and coastal climbs, the trail is intended for more experienced hikers.
Work is also underway this summer for marketing the trails, with branding, historical signage, brochures and maps.
“We want to involve the area’s history, back to the days when there was a commercial salmon fishery and the cod would jump into the boats – stuff like that,” Robinson said. “That’s part of the travel for a lot of tourists, they want to know that historical aspect.”