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Lockeport’s trestle bridge walking trail focus of July 20 public meeting

A man and his dog stop by the chain link fence and gate blocking access to Lockeport’s historic trestle bridge walking trail before it was vandalized.
A man and his dog stop by the chain link fence and gate blocking access to Lockeport’s historic trestle bridge walking trail before it was vandalized. - Contributed

LOCKEPORT, N.S. – Residents of Lockeport, Shelburne County, concerned and upset with the closure of a historic trestle bridge walking trail by the Town of Lockeport have called a public meeting for Friday, July 20 to discuss the matter. The meeting is being held at the Lockeport Recreation Center starting at 7 p.m.

“For us – it’s not just me – there is a whole group of us that use it (the trail) all the time and we don’t think that they (town council) put an importance on this,” said resident Darlene MacIntosh. “They don’t realize the value is has in our day-to-day lives.”

MacIntosh said residents are upset that they were not informed there was going to be a discussion of closing the trail, and that they were not included in the discussion.

“It’s just like there was no respect for community,” she said. “We feel very disrespected in that way.”

They are also upset that repairing the trestle bridge walking trail is not high on the list of the town’s priorities.

MacIntosh said the trestle trail is well used by the community for walking, jogging, fishing and family outings. “People bike to work on that trestle instead of driving the road around. It saves them 20 to 30 minutes. For them this is their way into town. It has been that way since I was a little girl. In this day and age when we’re trying to get kids off the cell phone and out in the fresh air…we’ve got families that go there for outings and spend the day together and talk to one another instead of sitting in front of the tv. They just don’t realize it’s actually beneficial both mentally and physically. That is priceless alone.”

Erosion of the trail base and the deteriorating conditions of the two trestle bridges that are part of the trail – the former CNR rail line – first prompted Lockeport Town Council to close the trail to pedestrians in May 2017.

“The unsafe conditions at the time were more to do with the sinkholes that were happening,” said Lockeport Mayor George Harding in an interview. While the town’s Public Works staff did fill the sinkholes in, Mayor Harding said the town realized it going to keep eroding. “That’s when we decided to put up rock barriers with a sign saying closed due to unsafe conditions.”

Mayor Harding said people were still choosing to walk the trail, despite the warning signs, “and we didn’t particularly have a problem with that because the sign was there, unsafe conditions. Then we had some more storms,” he said, creating further erosion, particularly at the entrance to the farthest trestle from town. “That’s when we got quite concerned about the actual safety of the trestle itself,” he said, adding the town was advised by their insurance company that they were concerned that the rocks and the sign wasn’t enough of a visual deterrent to keep people off the trial.

So, the town put up two, chain link fences at either end of the trail, with a gate in both, as a forward-thinking measure that would allow heavy equipment to get in there to do repairs down the road, said Mayor Harding. “That’s when the public took exception to it.”

Twice the fences have been torn down, and the last time the gates were removed and thrown into the ocean. Even with the fence, the mayor said people “could still walk around it and to this day they’re still walking on it, but more people have decided not to because of potential unsafe conditions.”

MacIntosh said when residents got wind that fence were going to be erected “some of us volunteered to do something but were told no. Some of the community themselves would gladly help haul rocks and gravel to fill it in but now its gone to the point where they are saying the actual trestles need to be redone and a lot of residents feel that doesn’t need to take place right now.”

Mayor Harding said the town has been in contact with the province about possible funding to do a preliminary study on the trail.

“Every time we look at something we need to have done that is major, we have to have a preliminary study done before we can contract the work,” he said, adding he is hopeful a provincial representative will be on hand at the meeting on Friday to explain what the grant for the study would entail and how to apply, so citizens can hear firsthand.

Meanwhile, the RCMP also intends to be at the meeting.

The Shelburne RCMP issued a media release this week noting that the Town of Lockeport has reported two separate incidents of mischief to the Lockeport Train Trestle Walking Trail. One incident occurred the night of June 25 and the other over the July 1 long weekend.

“Vandals removed the chain link gates that had been installed, and they also removed the 'no trespassing' signs from the bridges along the trail. The signs and gates were in place by the Town of Lockeport to keep people out and warn users of the potential hazard in the area,” read the release.

Members of Shelburne RCMP are investigating the incidents. The RCMP said they will be attending the July 20 public meeting to discuss the issue of safety on the walking trail, and work with the community to identify solutions.

Meanwhile, anyone with information about the vandalism and thefts is asked to contact Shelburne RCMP at 902-875-2490. Should people wish to remain anonymous call Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers toll free at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), submit a secure web tip at www.crimestoppers.ns.ca, or use the P3 Tips App.

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