OXFORD, N.S.- What has been a labour of love for a small group of trail enthusiasts is nearing a successful conclusion.
For just over six years a group of Oxford and area residents have been working to fulfill Gerry McLellan’s 20-year-old dream to connect the community to the Trans Canada Trail system that stretches from coast to coast.
That effort took another huge step forward when a work party came together Sept. 22 to put wooden planking on a 110-foot-long bridge over the Black River. The project represents the near completion of a three phase project that included a bridge over the River Philip and construction and opening last year of a tunnel under Main Street.
“It really has been a labour of love for this small group of people, but we’ve had a tremendous amount of support from other groups and individuals from across Cumberland County and other areas of the province,” Oxford and Area Trails Association president David Hoffman said.
While the bridge spanning the river is in place and its deck has been completed, Hoffman said there is still work to be done before people can begin using the bridge. He said siding has to be put in place and there’s still work needed to be done for the abutments and ramps leading up to the bridge itself. He expects this work to be completed over the next few weeks.
The bridge, which is 14 feet wide, is also wide enough for the Cumberland Snowmobile Club’s groomer so the trail and its bridges and tunnel can be used year-round. He said there was tremendous support from both all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile groups and users to make the project a reality with plenty of volunteers coming out at various times to help out.
While he tries not to single people out, Hoffman said it would be difficult not to thank John Baxter, who brought out equipment and manpower to help with the project while Mervil Rushton moved the bridge into place across the river.
“They’re examples of people coming together to make this project happen,” Hoffman said.
The final phase of the project cost more than $400,000 with $280,000 in funding from the federal government and $144,000 from the Trans Canada Trail Foundation.
Sheldon Conrad said the bridge pretty much makes the trail whole and connects to the tunnel at Main Street and the bridge over the River Philip. Conrad said putting decking in place was a pretty big job and it went off without a hitch in an almost assembly line fashion.
“This pretty much completes our connection to the Trans Canada trail,” Conrad said. “It’s a multi-use trail running from Pictou to Oxford and now it will run from Oxford up to Leicester and then across the ship railway.”
Conrad said the project came with some challenges including acquiring environmental permits and putting a corduroy road in place over a wet area along the trail.
Along with ATVs and snowmobiles, the trail and bridge will be accessible to horseback riders, bicyclists and hikers. However, it will not be open to cars or trucks.
The trail should be ready for use by the end of October, Conrad said.
Hoffman feels the entire trail system around and through Oxford should provide a key link to the rest of the Trans Canada Trial and the former short line railway trail that runs between Oxford and Pictou County.
He also sees it as something that could attract people to the community while also providing recreational opportunities for Oxford and area residents.